October 5, 2012

Our Outreach Process: The DREAM Model

Published: 5 October 2012 

We have been conducting outreach at Matter Solutions for quite some time. Outreach is probably one of the most white-hat long-term SEO tactics that Google is unlikely to thrash with algo updates-if done correctly. Why? Because it is ethical and gains relevant backlinks to your website.

Outreach has evolved over the past years from asking for link exchanges, or a link on a resource page to creating content on your site that people actually want to link to.

We have been constructing a process that combines all our outreach efforts and research into a clear strategy that can be implemented for any client. And we are going to share it with you 🙂

The DREAM Model

Aim: Firstly, to create killer content on-site that people will want to link to from their website. Then engage with influencers and contact people with a link to the content. And, of course gain high-quality backlinks in the process.


The DREAM model is aptly named as if used correctly it can greatly benefit your link-building strategy. This process should be part of an overall strategy including inbound and content marketing. When brainstorming ideas for fresh content on your website you should be thinking of whether it is useful to your customers, users and influencers in the market. If it isn’t then nobody will link to it.

Creating personas for the different types of people you want to engage with can be very useful for constructing valuable content. Ask the following questions to ensure your content strategy is relevant to the people you want to reach:

  1. What do they care about?
  2. What will make them engage with you?
  3. What is the added-value to them?
  4. What are their turn-ons and turn-offs?

Gaining an influencer’s attention can be hugely beneficial for link-building and traffic to your site. If an industry influencer tweets or, even better, links to your site then your content is exposed to all of their followers and your backlinks can increase naturally.

Once you have created your content strategy you can begin the DREAM process.

Step 1 - Discover


Discover websites, bloggers and authors who will be interested in linking to your content. Can be gained through the following tools:

  • Blog lists: Pre-made niche blogger lists that can be found through a Google search.
  • Blog Dash: A useful network where you can search for niche bloggers and gain their contact details. Very helpful when you get to the ‘engage’ step.
  • Blogger Linkup: you can find guest bloggers, can request to guest blog, or ask a blogger to write a review of products.
  • Open Site Explorer: A backlink checker used for targeted link-building.
  • Competitive Link Finder on SEOMoz Labs: See what sites your competitors are linking to that you aren’t.
  • AuthorCrawler: This tool uses the SEOMoz API to discover backlinks of a URL and crawls them for an authorship markup. The end result is a report with a list of authors, contact information and social importance (followers, etc). You can enter your competitor’s URL into the tool and discover what authors are linking to them for a list of potential link prospects. With the growing speculation on authorship becoming a ranking factor in the Google Algorithm I can see this tool becoming very popular.
  • Followerwonk: use keywords to gain lists of relevant people/bloggers.
  • Create a Google Custom Search Engine: can be used to create custom results e.g. infographic sites, niche bloggers, etc. Have a look at Paddy Moogan’s blog post on how to build a Google Custom Search Engine.
  • Search for “Top” Lists of products or services that is relevant to your site.
  • Citation Labs-$47/mth but worth it, they have a wide range of tools including; Link Prospector, Contact Finder, Outbound Link Scraper, Bulk Backlink Checker (check if they have already linked), URL Status Checker (check for broken links), URL Filter Tool (filter out URLs that have specific terms in them)
  • Advanced Searches: intitle, inurl, inpostauthor, etc.
  • Reverse Image Search: Check to see if websites are using your logos or pictures and not linking back to your site. These can be contacted asking for a link.
  • Branded Search: See if sites are mentioning you in content but not linking back to your website.
  • Google Alerts: Set up alerts for your brand name and keywords. You will get an email if any are mentioned online-this can be a useful way to gain links or create topical content.
  • Google News: can use to find out industry-related news.
  • Alltop: breaking news topics-can be used for niche markets useful for client industries that you are not involved in. You can drill-down to relevant authors which can be added to your list of link prospects.

Build the list in Excel or an outreach tool such as Buzzstream. Refine the list and categorize them according to High value, Medium Value & Low Value. High-value being high-profile influencers or quality influential websites. Medium value could be an average website or author that isn’t well-known. Low-value would be average industry-related websites.

Step 2 - Research

After refining your list, research your targets. This can be achieved through identifying the social channels they use. We have been experimenting with Buzzstream to scrape their contact information from websites which saves you the time and effort. Research the following depending on the value of the link (a low value link won’t need engagement-as time is money:

  • The name of the person you need to talk to
  • Their position in the company
  • Their Twitter account, Google +, Blog, Email, Phone Number
  • Interests
  • Influence in the market
  • Company history

This information can be used to personalise the outreach which will be more persuasive.

Step 3 - Engage

If the link is low-value then go to Step 4. If the link is high value then engage with the influencer through social networks:

  • Comment on their blogs
  • Follow and interact on social networks
  • Give ideas for further research, etc.
  • Then, ‘tweet’ your content to them saying it might be of interest
  • Involve them from the project from the start (e.g. ask them for their data/research/info needs)

Step 4 - Ask


Outreach to influencers and your link prospects through email requests. Best to have 2-3 email template (one short & sweet, one longer and detailed for bloggers, etc). You should also use the information you gained from the research you conducted to personalise the email:

Remember it should be an opportunity for the receiver NOT a request.

Here is an example of an email layout:

Subject Line:

Simple and compelling e.g. An Infographic that may interest you


Who am I

Why am I sending this email to you (compliment latest post, point out a site error)

What do I want (and how it will benefit them)


Does this sound like something you would like be interested in? Ask them do they have any upcoming information needs that we could write about on our site for them to link to.

Tools to use:

  • Boomerang: reminds you to follow up on an unresponded email, or you can determine the time an email should be sent. Helpful if you are in a different time-zone to the receiver.
  • Buzzstream
  • Rapportive: an email add-on that gives you information about the receiver such as latest tweets.

Document outbound efforts on excel spreadsheet or use a platform like Buzzstream.

Step 5 - Monitor

You should follow-up twice. If they say no, ask for feedback.

How to respond if they say yes:

  • Thank you
  • Ask for any referrals
  • Any future content needs (can be used for similar sites or other sites they own)
  • Request a review

If they say no:

  • Learn why
  • Seek a commitment if you can improve your offer

Outreach is a continuous process and while you are engaging with your influencers you could also be discovering new link prospects. So the steps may overlap.

So there it is-our Outreach process which has been very beneficial to us. You can use it or create your own based on it. If you have any outreach techniques you use that hasn’t been mentioned here please share-don’t be shy.

Ben Maden

Read more posts by Ben

5 comments on “Our Outreach Process: The DREAM Model”

  1. When someone writes an post he/she retains the plan of a user in his/her brain that how a user can be aware of it.
    So that's why this article is amazing. Thanks!

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