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Part 1: Research
How to research
Our research goal is to come up with a list of websites that might be interested in knowing or writing about Mardy’s. First we’ll need to a bit of strategic brainstorming to determine what sort of sites to focus on. For Mardy’s, we’ll target local restaurant review blogs, food blogs and maybe local party planning/wedding coordinator sites.
We still need a starting place. How about the most popular food blog in LA? Let’s say it’s Consuming LA. Now that we have one site, our goal is to branch out, connect the dots and find more sites to begin building our list.
There are some basic questions we want to answer about each site in this process:
- Who’s linking to this website?
- Are there other similar websites that this one mentions?
- Does this blog have a list of related links somewhere?
The main idea is to connect the dots from websites you know about to new websites you need to know. How do we start connecting the dots? Enter a few research tools to aid the process.
There are plenty of tools to help with this research, from simple and free basic tools to more professional systems. Here’s a rundown of a few of the most popular.
Simple Google search: We know we want Los Angeles food blogs, so putting variations on that phrase into Google should get us some decent prospects. However, if our terms are fairly common, we might have a bit harder of a time singling out useful information.
Google search with site operator: To weed out some of the noise and narrow down your results, site operators can be helpful. Let’s say we’ve already thoroughly researched Consuming LA and now want some new blogs to check out. We can perform the following search “LA food blog -site:consumingla.com”. This will return all results except the ones from consumingla.com itself.
Google blog search: Many of the sites we’re looking for will likely be blogs, so google.com/blogsearch is a useful tool. It returns only sites that Google determines to be a blog. We may start here to find the blog, then work backwards through search operators and regular Google search to find out more about it.
Facebook search: Facebook’s search isn’t perfect, but putting in a few searches should help us find relevant Facebook pages, which then in turn will help us find relevant websites. We can even use Facebook to build the relationship – once we find a blog you’re interested in, we’ll be sure to like the page so we can keep up with their posts.
Social Mention: This tool calls itself “real-time social media search and analysis,” and it’s great to find out what people are talking about online. We can monitor a few keywords relevant to our market, find out who’s mentioning them, and use that to start a conversation with that blogger or website owner.
Followerwonk: This sites make searching on Twitter a little easier. We can log in with our Twitter account, enter a keyword or phrase to search on Twitter bios, and find relevant people to reach out to.
MajesticSEO: MajesticSEO has set out to catalog the entire web, and what a daunting task that is. Their Site Explorer tool is essentially a database of billions of websites. Sign up for a free account and you can enter URLs and see a few examples of the top sites linking to that URL. From there, you can keep making more and more connections as you find who links to whom.
Let’s enter consumingla.com into the Site Explorer and see what our results look like.
Here we’ve found a few new prospects, like Dishing Up Delights. Now we can do the same exploration for this blog and get even more food blogs to check out.
Now we’re talking – we’ve unearthed even more food blogs, and one that’s even specific to baking. This blog is definitely one that might want to know about Mardi’s. Keep going through as many layers are you like, for as many sites as you like.
Open Site Explorer: Exact same concept as MajesticSEO, just with different approach, so you’ll get slightly different data. Open Site Explorer guest users are limited to running 3 reports per day, so you can do a bit of research with this tool without cutting into your budget. You just enter a domain and the tool will tell you who’s linking there, giving you a great idea about other websites to target.
Raven: Our tools combine both MajesticSEO and SEOmoz data (which powers a lot of Open Site Explorer), and plans start at $99 a month. If you start doing frequent link building, this could be a good option for you.
When we’re done with our research, we should have a big batch of sites relevant to your business. Now it’s time to make sure the sites we’ve picked out are high quality. We’ll look them over closely and make sure the content is interesting, well-written and not spammy and that they look and feel like a site we would want our brand associated with. It’s important to choose our final list of sites carefully, because our next step will be getting in touch with them.
When we’ve got our final list of prospects, it’s a good time to put together a quick list or spreadsheet so we can stay organized (we’ve also created a spreadsheet template you can download at the top of this page). For now, our list will include:
- The site’s web address and name
- The website owner’s name and email address
- Any social media info we collected about the site
- Any other contact information we find
Devote as much time to the research phase as you want. And if this seems like a lot of work for a little link, remember that there are many other uses for this research, including intelligence on your competition as well as your general industry and community. Mardy’s Munchies will know lots about the LA dining scene and their competitors after this research. For example, we can use this research to find potential restaurants in the area that might need a dessert provider.
That’s it for the research phase. Next: onto outreach.