Tag Archives: link development

PR by the Seat of Your Pants – How to Get the Links & Mentions Your Content Deserves

Wild West Cowgirl

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.

Outreach Spreadsheet

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:

Outreach Spreadsheet

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.

Press Coverage:

Press Coverage Example

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.

Competitions:

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.

Guest Posts:

Guest Post Example

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):

Press Outreach Template

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.

# # #

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

 

Damn Son, Update Your Off-Page SEO for 2014

Guest blogging can be a great way to obtain links, but the strategy has been so over-used in the last few years that most site owners are just saying no. The average webmaster is spammed with dozens of generic outreach emails every week, so it’s no surprise that our requests are met with anger or amusement or sarcasm:

Josie Outreach Email

Basically, it is very hard to get a guest post published nowadays. And even when you do, you still face the following challenges:

LINK REMOVED

The site owner accepts your content, and then removes or no-follows the link several months later without telling you. Sometimes they put it back when you ask them nicely:

Link Removed

SITE NOT WHAT IT SEEMS

The site appears to be authoritative (great PageRank, Domain Authority, MozRank) but when you do some checks, you realise it was previously a different site entirely, and that’s how it built up its authority (check out Sohaib’s post here). It didn’t earn those metrics for the low quality, SEO-powered blog it is today, and I doubt a link from there will carry much value.

OVER-OPTIMISED ANCHOR TEXT

The Google Penguin update has made it very risky to over-optimise your anchor text. You could write an amazing article and get it published on an amazing site. But still, if the anchor text is pushing your keywords too hard, you run the risk of harming rather than helping your site.

Guest Blogging Tips for 2014

These challenges exist today because SEOs have over-used the guest blogging strategy in the past and haven’t combined it with other ways of getting links. If you plan to continue guest blogging in 2014, I won’t blame you. It is still a very powerful technique for building links to target URLs. But please do it appropriately and consider these tips to avoid the problems mentioned above.

THE SITE OWNER IS DOING YOU A FAVOUR

Many SEOs fail to appreciate that the site owner is doing them a massive favour when they publish a guest post. 9 times out of 10, the link is worth more than the content (however good a writer you are). That’s just the way it is.

DON’T BE JUST ANOTHER ONE NIGHT STAND

SEO One Night Stand

Many site owners are used to being treated by SEOs as ‘one night stands’. By this I mean the SEO will approach them out of the blue about contributing content, get something published, and then ride off into the sunrise, never to be seen again.

A better way to do it is to show you care by establishing a working relationship with the site owner. You can do this by contributing on a regular basis (even if it’s not for a link), sharing content and letting them guest post on your blog. It is a relationship that works both ways, and who knows where it could lead in the future? At the very least, you won’t have your links removed…

I would go further and say you should only approach people you know about guest blogging. I’m not saying the site owner has to be your best mate, but they should be someone with whom you have exchanged a few emails before you ‘pop the question’ :-)

LINK NON-COMMERCIALLY

Link in ways that other SEOs don’t. This means avoiding promoting your brand explicitly. My two favourites are:

  • Linking from the image credit: Use a picture from your website and then link to your site from the image source (as PR Newswire do in this post). 
  • Linking from a quote source: Get an expert opinion from your CEO and link to your site as the quote source (see this post on TNT Magazine).

Both of these methods are non-commercial and give the impression that the link is there to stay.

DITCH THE KEYWORD ANCHOR TEXT

I am starting to think it is safer to use no keywords in the anchor text at all. You still get the benefit of linking to a target URL, but without the risk of a penalty for over-optimised anchor text. Here are some examples, assuming the link points to “www.yoursite.com/target-page” in each case:

  • Bare URL: “See Your Brand for more information (www.yoursite.com/target-page).”
  • Branded anchor text: “See Your Brand for more information.”
  • Keyword-free: “See Your Brand for more information.”

BUILD LINKS THAT BELONG

The most common reason why a site owner will remove a link is because it doesn’t belong there. I am sure many of us have been guilty of ‘shoehorning’ a link into an article so that we can write about a topic we love (here is one of mine):

Spammy Link Example

Please try to write about your client’s business instead. This could mean writing about their latest news, products or services. Have they just released an innovative new travel app? Are they launching an epic interactive infographic for Christmas? Is their CEO a famous public figure that could be interviewed (hat tip to ex-Verve employee Lena for this one)?

These types of angles may be less fun to write than ’5 Cool Things to Do in East London’ but, unless your client is ‘a cool thing to do in East London’, they will provide far more PR value.

It’s Time for Some New Moves

Yoda pirate

The real issue here is that too many SEOs have been relying on guest blogging for their entire link development strategy and not trying out other ideas. There are literally hundreds of other ways of getting links, as Jon Cooper of Point Blank SEO demonstrates in this comprehensive list. To give you an idea, here are some strategies that have been working for us at Verve recently:

I think the reason we are facing a glut of guest blogging is because the SEO industry has this culture of promising clients a certain number of links each month. If we can take a leaf out of PR’s book and stop guaranteeing the results we are able to achieve, this would free us up to try bigger and better things.

When the final door closes on guest blogging, I am sure that another scalable tactic will take its place as the new sweetheart of the SEO industry. My hunch is that this will be the creation of on-page content and big linkworthy assets. This can only be a good thing. Can’t it? ;-)