PR by the Seat of Your Pants – How to Get the Links & Mentions Your Content Deserves
Image by J.C. Leacock Photography
The content marketing Wild West
Since Matt Cutts called the decay and fall of guest blogging, the new scalable “link building” tactic for many SEOs is content marketing, meaning investing in quality content assets such as tools, videos, PDF guides and games that engage audiences across the web.
The benefits are more social shares, more followers and more people aware of your brand – as well as links and mentions that may move the needle in terms of your SEO.
As Rand Fishkin points out, we’re still in the Wild West phase of content marketing, meaning there’s still a good chance of getting your content noticed in most niches. And you will also spend far less money than you would for the same exposure via paid channels. (See Rand’s post for why this may not always be the case, though.)
What can SEOs bring to the table?
What we can bring to the party is our particular ability to reach out to bloggers and arrange collaborations to get content featured around the web.
In this article, I share some of my favourite tips for optimising the content outreach process. I’ve called it “PR by the Seat of Your Pants” because most of these tips come from trial and error and experimentation, rather than from any background in the PR industry, so please don’t shoot me down, PR folks.
It’s a good idea to begin by creating an outreach spreadsheet where you can keep track of all your placement opportunities. This will help you to prioritise the easy wins, remember how far you’ve got and outsource any work to a colleague if necessary.
Here’s an example:
Domain: The site you’re planning to reach out to
Opportunity: The type of placement you think you’ll be able to get (news item, competition, guest post – more on this in the next section)
Approach: How you’re going to get the coverage (e.g. pitch them a story idea, follow them on Twitter, offer them coverage in return)
Difficulty: How easy will it be to get this placement? This is where you should use your Jedi powers SEO intuition to decide if it’s an easy win or not.
Progress: Keep track of how far you’ve got with the outreach process (e.g. “email sent, waiting to hear back”)
With this tool at your disposal, you should never miss a trick.
Identifying Opportunity Types
Think about all the possible ways that you could get your content featured on sites around the web. And remember, your content needs to be:
- newsworthy – to get press coverage
- cool, useful and authentic – to get featured on blogs
- “on brand” and aimed at your potential customers
For example, here are some opportunities we identified for a travel video about East London. Yours will vary, depending on your niche and the type of content you’re making.
Type of site: local newspapers / travel industry websites
How: Pitch your story to a newspaper’s news desk or to a specific journalist. If they like what they read, they’ll write a story about you (more on this in the next section). Simples.
Type of site: London blogs
How: Donate a prize for a site to giveaway in conjunction with running a news item about your content. This way, they get the extra traffic and shares from running a competition and you get additional exposure for your content. Everyone’s a winner.
Type of site: London blogs / urban travel blogs / creativity blogs
How: Think up some article ideas that would enable you to embed your content in the post. You can then write these articles and get them published around the web, thereby getting your content seen by more people.
This may sound a bit old-school, but what you’re doing is slightly different to traditional guest blogging; you’re asking sites to link to content they should be happy to feature, rather than to a commercial page which might compromise their integrity.
Here are some angles that might work for the East London video:
- 24 Hours in East London
- London’s Best East End Markets
- Top 5 Places to Skate in East London
- An Interview with the Filmmaker*
*We found that many London sites were far happier to publicise the work of an up and coming local filmmaker than a travel company…
Press Outreach Tips
Once you’ve tracked down the opportunities, you’re biggest win (and most time-sensitive task) is to outreach to the press. Here’s what you should consider in your pitch:
- Are you going to email the news desk or a particular journalist?
- Are you pitching to the right journalist? (i.e. someone who covers similar stories)
- Are you representing the company and using a work email address? Or are you contacting as an individual involved in the creative process using your personal address?
- Can you contact the journalist beforehand, giving them an advanced preview or letting them be the first to cover it?
- Can you also publish a press release on your website or via a newswire service such as PR Newswire or PRWeb? (No, not for the links but to refer the journalist to for additional information – it might also make your campaign seem more authoritative.)
- Are you available by phone or in person for an interview? (This will inspire trust in you and enable the journalist to verify the story.)
Give them what they want
Just remember that the type of story you pitch will be very different depending on the type of publication you’re contacting. Consider these two possible headlines for the East London video:
A SKATER’S EYE VIEW OF VIBRANT EAST LONDON
TRAVEL COMPANY OFFERS NEW TWIST ON ONLINE TOUR GUIDES
The first could be from a local newspaper, while the second could be from a travel industry website. Two very different stories about the same piece of content.
The newspaper wants to know why you chose to highlight their local area, while the travel industry site cares more about what makes this video unique and how successful it has been so far.
Pitch to journalists the story their readers want to read, and don’t get bogged down in irrelevant details.
Bonus: Press Outreach Template
If you’re looking for more info on what to include in your pitch, check out this template (we advise sending an email, not a coffee-stained letter):
Made using Writing Fonts
Targeting the Underserved Query
One last thing to consider: does your content target an underserved search query? This was brought to my attention by James Agate in his recent Moz post, who suggests that SEOs should target high volume queries in their content marketing, queries that are inadequately served by current search results.
This way, your content will hopefully rank for these popular phrases, which will generate a constant stream of organic search traffic, some of which may link and mention you. This means you can spend less time on the active outreach process outlined above.
In the travel sector, an example might be the phrase “best travel apps”, which gets loads of monthly searches and is only served by “top 10″ blog posts. You might be able to create an interesting piece of content in an alternative format (video or graphic) that serves this query more effectively and stands out by being different.
I think this combination of savvy keyword targeting and a winning idea is the Holy Grail of SEO-age content marketing.
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So there you have it, I hope this post has given you some new ideas on how to outreach your content.
People have been talking about making great content for years, but it’s only now that they’re starting to actually do it. Now’s your chance to be a pioneer in this underdeveloped landscape and to reap the rewards – while the West is still Wild.
If you have anything to add, let me know in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter: @MattELindley