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Creating an SEO-Focused Influencer Marketing Program

Influencer marketing takes many forms. When an authoritative web publisher mentions or links to your content — or an individual with a strong social media following points traffic in your direction — the impact on your marketing program can be significant.

Through SEO backlinks, influencer marketing can expand brand awareness and provide unique product promotion opportunities. This increase of awareness can then add additional value to your other search engine optimization efforts as well as your content marketing and social media efforts.

But since we’re search people here at Silverback, let’s focus on how to use influencer marketing for SEO backlinks to improve your search ranking. 

What is an influencer?

The world is crawling with influencers — Instagram, YouTube and other social platforms are alive with the sound of influencers. The Gen Z superstar is essentially a cliche at this point. 

But makeup videos and funny skits are not the beginning and the end of influencers or your influencer outreach program. Influencers can be anyone with access to a substantial niche audience and the capability of generating engagement and interest in the content they share. 

The manager at your local Home Depot may be an influencer if he’s making how-to videos that reach ten or fifteen thousand highly-engaged woodworkers every time he posts. 

Relevance is key. Targeted influencers that you contact for influencer marketing should work in your industry and connect with your potential customers.

Who to target for influencer marketing

Let’s say you run a catering business and you’ve just written a blog post and shot an iPhone video on 15 new ways to fry a potato. How would you go about building an outreach list?

It’s tempting to go straight for the “big fish,” but you need to be realistic as you build your influencer prospect list. Try breaking your list into 3 categories: A-listers, B-listers, and C-listers. 

  • A-listers are celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay — highly respected, but difficult to reach or convince to give you a backlink. A social mention would be great, frankly — the right influencer can turn a firehose of traffic toward your site.
  • B-listers are popular food bloggers — influential, but their name may only be familiar to others who work in the field. And that's fine! They may have popular websites, blogs and social channels that can provide strong signals for our friends at Google.
  • C-listers are your local food experts. They write about adventurous recipes and discover new restaurants around town. You'll want to vet these folks, because while they may be popular with your hometown audience, a link from a website with poor authority may actually hurt your site.

Figuring out who you are realistically able to go after is key to a successful program as there’s little point in creating an influencer marketing program if all your emails go unanswered. 

Creating a Solid Influencer Marketing Program

Influencers can provide two valuable components to your SEO program:

  1. Backlinks. SEO and backlinks go hand in hand. Links to your site from authoritative web publishers are the gold standard of Google. The most consistent factors that influence high search rank are relevant content and a strong SEO backlink profile. Influencers who can link to your website are extremely valuable — and they know it. 
  2. Traffic. Traffic is a strong signal to Google that your website has relevant content that users find valuable. While it is only one of many signs that Google reads to determine search rank, it is safe to say that traffic is a big help to your SEO program — whether it comes from a web publisher, social media, an email newsletter or other quality sources.

So that's the ultimate goal: you want these influencers to link to your site and drive their rabid fans to your content. So how do you actually do that?

The first step is to create great content that aligns with your keyword ranking goals. Use keyword research tools to find the best strategic keywords for your content. 

Then, find out what type of content is ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) for your targeted keyword. Differentiate your content, so it’s more valuable to the consumer. 

Once you’ve done that, you’ve set the foundation of your influencer marketing strategy.

A side note - influencers are difficult to dazzle

If you want them to link to your content, what you share with them should be mind-blowing. If that sounds difficult, you’re right — it is. 

Outstanding content — the kind that will get an influencer fired up about your brand — takes time, thought and effort to make. Just hoping that an influential individual shares your content and gives you an SEO backlink because it would really help you out is like planning your retirement by buying lottery tickets.

As you create your content strategy, be sure your content is easy to consume, highly engaging and uniquely interesting. Add visuals such as high-res photos, original designs, infographics, videos, or GIFs that help to break up bulk text blocks and complement the story you’re telling.

The end product should be in line with your keyword targeting strategy and valuable enough to capture influencer interest. 

Tools to uncover influencers

You may not know who your influencers are as you start testing out influencer marketing. Sometimes a few people come to mind, but more often than not, a little bit of digging is required. Here are a few tools to help get you started uncovering your influencers.

  • Buzzstream Discovery. Buzzstream is an outreach management platform used at Silverback Strategies. The Buzzstream Discovery program allows you to identify the right influencers for your outreach strategy. Type in a search term and use the filtering options on the left-hand rail to narrow down and qualify the results based on your outreach goals.
  • BuzzSumo. Use BuzzSumo to discover popular content for a specific keyword. BuzzSumo ranks influencers based on their relevance to the keyword you entered and their Twitter following. However, if the influencer is not active on Twitter, the BuzzSumo app will have a hard time discovering them. Here’s how to get the most for your money of BuzzSumo.
  • Social Media. Use the search features within Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and other relevant platforms and communities to look for people, groups, or accounts that use a hashtag or keyword that is in-line with your content.
  • Local Lists. Perform a Google search for a local list of influencers in your industry. Use a tool like the Mozbar to identify the influencer’s domain authority and check to see if they tag their external links as follow or nofollow. *Pro tip:* For link building purposes, filter for influencers who have a domain authority of 30+.

How to reach out to influencers

Let's pretend I send you an email, asking you to do me a favor. What's the favor? It doesn't matter. But out of the blue, you — and we've never met — get an email asking you to make a minor change to your website and essentially endorse my work. Why? Because it would really help me out.

Would you do it? Probably not.

If you want to make an "ask" of an influencer, you need to establish a baseline relationship and offer a clear, concise rationale for moving forward. That starts with the initial outreach.

The best ways to contact an influencer are email and social media direct messaging (DM).

Research the influencer's website and find out their preferred method of communication. If you can’t find a contact form or email address, use an email finder tool.

Then, explore the influencer’s social media profiles. Many influencers prefer to connect through social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram. If the influencer is highly active on social media, you might find the best way to receive a response is through a DM. 

It’s important to note that not all social media profiles accept DMs right away. If you experience this roadblock, try tagging the influencer in a post.

Crafting your outreach message

You Googled "influencer marketing examples" and found a bunch of great templates for your first outreach email. Great! Just kidding.

Ditch generic influencer marketing templates. Your first outreach message to the influencer should be personal and concise. From subject line to the signature, let’s break down what a link-worthy email looks like.

How to Write an Influencer Email


Subject: Avoid vague or general subject lines. Keep it short while being clear about what’s inside.

Body: Greet your influencer by their first name. Include the reason you’re reaching out in the first or second sentence. Tell them why the content you're sharing is relevant and worthy of their time, and make a clear ask. MAKE IT FAST AND STAND OUT. Influencers are getting a lot of asks — stand out and respect their time.

Signature: Use a professional email signature.

Tips for Writing an Influencer DM

Social media DMs do not allow subject lines. Focus efforts on establishing a captive, concise opening sentence. Hit on the same notes as your influencer email.

Influencer outreach is a marketing strategy, so testing is an essential factor for success. Test your subject lines, main message and even the days and times you send your emails or direct messages.

Should you send follow-up emails?

If you don’t receive a response to your email after two weeks, send a follow-up email. Try sending your follow-up email on a different day or time. And a few things to remember:

  1. Send a reply message. Instead of starting a new email, send a reply email in response to your first message. This way, both your first and second outreach attempts will be on the same email chain.
  2. Keep your follow-up message short and sweet. The purpose of a follow-up email is to remind the influencer that you’ve already reached out. Remind them what you are sharing and remember to ask for a response. 

Summing Up Influencer Outreach

  • Think of the long game. Even if the influencer does not provide you with an SEO backlink, do not cross them off your list. There is still value in connecting with them down the road. And there's value in social media mentions!
  • Use tools like Buzzstream to keep track of your influencer contact list.
  • Highlight the influencer in your content. Ask them to take part in an interview for a Q&A blog post or feature them as a guest on a webinar. They’ll be more apt to share your content if they are the center of attention. 

Build Out Your Search Marketing Program.

Silverback Strategies is a leader in search marketing — SEO, Editorial SEO, Paid Search and Media. We provide a comprehensive approach to search solutions that take into account a prospective client's marketing goals and determine the right mix of strategy, services and experts to meet and exceed those benchmarks.

Learn more about search marketing at Silverback Strategies. Contact us today.

Originally published July 25, 2018. Updated August 22, 2019.