I was recently interviewed by WHSR on how bloggers with low-traffic can work with brands. Today, we have Daniel Slomka flipping the conversation around to share why low-traffic bloggers can make great brand partners.
For brands and businesses, it is a natural preference to work with high-traffic blogs. In this post, I would like to challenge this assumption. Based on my experience, I wish to encourage brands to work also with low-traffic (let’s call them just “smaller”) blogs. I hope it will also inspire smaller bloggers as they reach out to commercial partnerships.
So, let’s go down to business: why should you invest in cooperation with low-traffic blogs? There are 4 major reasons:
1. Measuring influence is tricky
First things first: when we talk about “big” and “small” blogs, we have to be careful in the way we measure them. Numbers can impress, but they can also lie; unfortunately some blogs are not as big and influential as they may initially seem.
What we are aiming to avoid here are so-called “vanity metrics”. Vanity metrics are statistics that measure irrelevant things, can be easily manipulated, and may not contribute anything to your brand.
To avoid falling for vanity metrics, there are several tricky factors you must be aware of:
– Social media popularity: an inherent part of every blog’s reputation is its social media presence. Big numbers of followers can make a good impression, but this article by data scientist Gilad Lotan shows how easy it is to buy such followers. The article also provides tips on how to recognize fake followers – a good tool if you want to make sure the blog is really influential.
– Measurement tools: there are several tools that measure the traffic of websites, the most popular being Alexa and Moz. These are useful tools that rank websites and help you assess their influence. Alexa, for example, ranks all the websites of the world according to their traffic. The problem is that it measures the traffic of a page only among readers that use Alexa. This creates significant distortion in the ranking. If you need a concrete example, Lauren Jung shows what can happen if you rely only on Alexa when searching for a blogger to cooperate with.
– Blog traffic: bloggers often share with brands their blog traffic stats, usually taken from Google Analytics. At first sight, this seems like a reliable source of information. Unfortunately, however, we know that it doesn’t take a lot of work to fabricate the statistics on Photoshop and deceive potential partners. Sad, but true. It is hard to identify a fake graph of blog traffic, but one tool that enables you to solve this problem is Boost the News. It is a content promotion platform that enables bloggers to share posts with brands, who then promote them through online ads. Whenever a blogger shares a post using Boost the News, it gives you access to the statistics of the post, so you can evaluate the blog’s true organic reach (disclosure: I work for Boost the News).
To say that measurement of popularity is tricky is not to say that bloggers are lying or cheating. It only means that you should be careful when looking at a blog’s statistics. Even if at first sight a blog seems smaller and less popular, it’s important that you don’t get blinded by the numbers, and focus on the truly relevant metrics.
My personal advice is to focus on engagement and conversation. If a blog is influential, you will see it not only in the numbers of followers it has or in the traffic statistics, but first and foremost in the level of engagement it sparks. If a blog’s Twitter account has thousands of followers but no engagement (re-tweets, replies, etc), that’s a warning sign. The same goes for comments on the blog itself. Look to see if readers are interested, react with the blogger, engage in discussions. You might be surprised that a smaller blog can perform better in this field than a bigger blog.
2. Smaller blogs are more responsive
Did you know that a mid-sized blog with an audience of 10,000 monthly unique visitors receives about 200 pitches from brands every week?
Top bloggers are extremely busy and growingly picky. If they have hundreds of pitches coming in, what would convince them to work with you? The responsiveness of bloggers is a question of supply and demand. The bigger a blog is – the smaller your chances of getting a response to your enquiry. Especially if you are a small business, you might want to get someone “in your league”.
I recently came back from the “SeeBloggers” conference, one of the biggest bloggers’ conferences in Europe. I got to meet there hundreds of small bloggers who are eager to work with brands and would be much more responsive than a busy top blogger. It’s worth giving it a shot.
3. Smaller blogs are more flexible
The rule of supply and demand applies also to the rest of the cooperation with the blogger: the bigger the blog, the higher the bill you should expect.
Brand Meets Blog has previous written about the question of payment and compensation. I’m of the strong opinion that bloggers should always be paid for their work, and strictly discourage offering non-paid cooperation. There is, nevertheless, the understanding that if a blog has a smaller audience, it will also charge less. Especially if you are running on a tight budget, or just starting your experiment with blogger outreach, it’s a good idea to start smaller.
The question of flexibility is not only a question of money. There are also other factors that may require flexibility, such as the length of the post, the date of publication, and others. In all these cases, bloggers who enjoy lower traffic will be more open to negotiation.
4. The long tail: low-traffic blogs nevertheless have a network
The previous arguments made work with smaller blogs feel like a certain compromise: you may work with a smaller blog if you have a smaller brand, a smaller budget, etc. But it’s not. In fact, the opposite is true: you might find yourself benefiting a lot more from a blog that at first sight looks smaller.
The fact that a blog has lower traffic does not mean it does not have a valuable network of followers. Cooperating with a low-traffic blog, you still get to reach several hundreds (or thousands) of people – which is more than you would reach through an online ads campaign. The theory of the internet’s “long tail” confirms that a lot of profit can be made by focusing on niche topics. Even though small blogs may seem small in the scale of the whole world wide web, they may be dominant in a certain niche, which gives them an incredible advantage.
An example: visiting the “SeeBloggers” conference in July, I met a Polish blogger who runs a beautiful blog about…steam cookers. As you can imagine, the topic is rather unique, so the blog’s traffic is not sky-rocketing. On the other hand, we know that there aren’t too many blogs in this topic. If I were representing a steam cooking brand, this would be the perfect investment for me.
The same works for local businesses. If your business is local, you don’t need a big influencer on the national or international level. Having a strong local influencer is of extreme value. The key word is “targeting”: whether a blog has higher or lower traffic is less important, what is important is that it reaches out to your target audience.
These four arguments all boil down to one bottom line: before reaching out to bloggers, you have to understand what you really need, and what you can offer in return. Aiming high and trying to approach an internationally-known blogger might not be the right way for you. Think which blogger might best cater your real needs, and go for the winning strike.
Do you agree? Would you add any more reasons why brands should work with small blogs?