First in our new series profiling successful SEO consultants and agencies who use CanIRank, our Community Relations Associate Melissa Gosse interviews master relationship builder Sam Hurley to learn the tools & methods he uses to streamline his influencer outreach. Turns out it’s not all about sappy emails and Twitter stalking…


Melissa Gosse with CanIRank

Melissa Gosse

Melissa Gosse (MG): Successful content marketing in 2016 requires a delicate balance between creativity, technical skills, and relationship building. Today we’re going to focus on the latter skill by picking the brain of one of the best connecters I’ve ever had the pleasure of — well, connecting with. Being able to build genuine and mutually-beneficial relationships from behind a computer screen is something of an art form, and doing so in the SEO and content marketing space where so many of us are constantly inundated with spammy, low-quality outreach from desperate link builders makes it that much harder.

SEO relationship building professional

Sam Hurley

Our guest Sam Hurley (SH) has navigated this environment with aplomb, building a huge following on social media and in the real world, which he’s managed to leverage into placements and features on sites such as the BBC, Search Engine Watch, Social Media Examiner, NBC News — and now, CanIRank! When not out growing his network, Sam Hurley is a U.K based content marketer & growth hacker, Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ and head of search marketing at Midas Media. Sam is an active tweeter, sharing tips and tricks for SEO and influencer outreach with his 90k+ followers.

Influencer relationships important link building campaign

Building real connections with people is as much a part of SEO as keyword relevancy, meta tags, and duplicate content.

MG: How important is relationship building in SEO?

SH: Relationships are everything in modern marketing. I can’t stress this enough! Pretty much all of the features I’ve bagged on top websites have been the result of strong relations.

And we all know what a ‘feature’ usually means, right? Links! Still said to be the core deciding factor in search engine rankings, links should be viewed as a prize for all the hard work you’ve put into creating a spider’s web of connections.

If your web is solid, links will begin to fall into your grasp. This will become easier with time as your presence compounds.

Never neglect influencer relationships because you’re busy chasing Google’s algorithm. One highly authoritative, relevant link within a guest blog of value to its readers is worth so much more than 10 crappy links shoehorned into a 400 word post on a website which clearly sells links.

Industry leaders, customers and partners are the lifeblood of your search engine optimization. Click To Tweet


MG: Do you have any tips for connecting with influencers?

SH: Influencer marketing is so powerful these days BUT many small businesses fail to grasp the concept with etiquette. Nobody likes to be spammed!

business networking to build relationships with influencers

Influencer outreach occurs across many mediums

Blasting 50 self-promotional tweets to a complete stranger isn’t going to work. Instead, spend a great deal of time researching a group of influential people in your industry so you have the ammunition to engage with them. This process should be spread over a few weeks, giving you adequate time to interact with your influencers, share their material and take a genuine interest in what they do. Have you any feedback on their latest articles? Have they helped you in some way? Let them know. Keep tastefully chiselling away and eventually you will begin to become recognized as a familiar face within their social feed.

Once this stage of the relationship has been reached, assess it. Have they replied to you at all? Were they receptive to your comments? If so, it may now be a good time to ask for their feedback on one of your articles or projects.

This is commonly known as the outreach process.

Keep your message succinct; don’t overwhelm or annoy them because this will turn everyone away.

Perhaps they could add some input to your piece. Feature their advice with a link to their Twitter profile and a nice big headshot to ego-bait them. How could anyone ignore it?!

If they do ignore it, learn why and make it simply unmissable:

  1. Is your website up to scratch? Does it look the part?
  2. Is your article ‘on the pulse’? Does it present a problem and a unique solution?
  3. Did you rush any stages of outreach?
  4. Is there anything within the article that could put the influencer off i.e. competitor mentions?

Never attempt to ‘take’ first. Always give something and then ask for a favour. Click To TweetIf I had a penny for each time someone made this mistake on Twitter I’d be a very rich man!



MG: What is the best use of automation for tracking relationships that you’ve found?

SH: I like to keep things as simple as possible in such a complex world of marketing. There are many elaborate (and expensive) tools out there to track influencer campaigns. I personally stick to a combination of private and public Twitter lists, Sidekick email tracking, and of course CanIRank.

Twitter lists are great to keep an eye on all your chosen influencers in one place. Keep them private or publicly display your lists
so to notify those included. This can be leveraged as another ego tool. Just name your lists wisely! ‘Influencers to Target’ probably won’t go down too well…

Sidekick tool integrates with the Microsoft Outlook email client. You are alerted whenever someone opens an email or clicks on any link contained within. Similarly, any emails which haven’t been opened will be shown. Love this app.

CanIRank link building tool

Finding link building opportunities with CanIRank’s Promote my Content tool

CanIRank Link Building tool: Unlike something like Google Alerts or Mention, the CanIRank tool filters through only hhigh-qualitypages (where a link has the most value) vs. pulling up everything/anything that is semi-related. The problem with many tools is they pick up too much spam junk. 99% of it is so low quality that you’d actually be hurting your website if you tried to promote there!

Link building alternatives like Google Alerts or Mention also lack the differentiation that this tool provides. For example, helping you see at a glance which are influencers you might be able to benefit from (like someone who maintains a resource page, writes reviews or puts together a weekly roundup) vs. those who offer no mutual benefit (like the CEO of your competitor).

With the keyword “SEO software”, here’s today’s Mention alerts:

using Mention for link building

Not sure why Mention considers these guys to be “influencers”, but they’re mostly promoting spammy affiliate links — not my scene.

Here’s today’s Google Alerts:

Google alerts for influencer outreach

So much junk to wade through! I don’t really want to be on these spam sites.

And here are CanIRank’s Link Opportunities:

Link building alerts from CanIRank

Relevant, authoritative, and categorized by page type so I can see what it will take to get a link there. Now this is something I can work with!

With the CanIRank examples, there’s less spam because every result is filtered and scored to retrieve higher quality pages, scoring how relevant the page is to your specific topic.

As a bonus, the tool also provides ‘page type’ so you can use a different strategy for each opportunity, plus an Actionable score so you can focus on the ones where you have the best chance of earning a link. Clever!

MG: What’s the best pitch/request email that you’ve received?

Digital marketing company UKSH: It was actually just a couple of weeks ago. Beginning of the month = reporting day at Midas Media. I received an email along the lines of… “Tired of doing those monthly reports?” …which went on to sell an automated, analytical reporting tool. Bearing in mind this was a completely cold email, I went on to tell the team and now I’m using a free demo with intent to purchase.

Although not an editorial request, the reason I mention this email is because it ticked the 3 most important boxes of outreach:

  • It used a great subject line which I simply had to open
  • It solved a problem
  • It was timed perfectly

Be sure to apply these methods in your outreach attempts.

MG: Do you think conferences are worth cost as a relationship building tool?

SH: Hell yeah. As long as you go prepared. Look the part, talk the part and don’t shy away from the pro speakers. Make an effort to mingle with influential heads after their talk and be sure to exchange contact details.

Surrounding yourself with such influential figures can only be a positive move. As well as learning from such conferences, you can begin to weave that spider’s web, grow your industry circle and catch those links ;-)


MG: Tell us how your agency uses CanIRank in your SEO work:

SH: At Midas Media we believe that data is fundamental to the success and progression of any project. Prior to CanIRank we would pull together data from a number of different SEO tools and spend time messing about in in Excel to get everything into an understandable format for clients, manually highlighting the issues we wished to address.

With CanIRank we’ve been able to reduce that whole data collection and analysis process from several hours down to just a couple minutes and we have reports that are easy for clients to understand which tell a story about their website, in terms of progress, strengths and weaknesses relative to competitors in the space.

This has helped immeasurably in client pitches and on-the-fly assessments of a new keyword or content opportunity. It’s so much easier to manage client expectations when they have a realistic picture of how their site compares to top rankers, plus all of the factors we’re working to improve in order to get them on top.

A huge thanks once again to Sam for chatting with us. I hope you’ll agree it’s been a great insight into the motivation behind relationship building in the SEO world. You can catch more tips and tricks from Sam on his Twitter or LinkedIn.

If you’d like to nominate an SEO or content marketing thought leader to be interviewed here, please reach out to Melissa on Twitter.