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Campaign Spotlight – A Contact Lens Company Visual Content

My latest campaign spotlight focuses on three similar campaigns we produced for a contact lens company, all of which have been consistently covered by national and international lifestyle journalists.

These campaigns are Moving Perspectives, The Stroop Effect and Photographic Memory. I will discuss each campaign in turn, explaining the thought process behind their creation, and how their execution led to consistent coverage from top-tier publications.

The Stroop Effect was the first to launch in May this year. It is a colour perception game based on the Stroop test , a psychological phenomenon where the brain struggles to read the word of a colour when formatted with a different colour, for example Red written in green.

Based on this, we devised a test which measures how quickly you can identify five matching colours (e.g. Red, Pink, Green) against ten mismatching colours (e.g. Red, Pink, Green). We then tested the game on a survey with 2000 UK adults to give us various headlines about how well the nation performed.

To date, The Stroop Effect has been picked up 28 times with a total of 2,068 Link Score (Verve’s own tool using a combination of metrics to measure the value of links). The test also has over 100,000 views, thanks to features in the Mirror, Daily Mail, Mental Floss and Business Insider.

In July, we launched Photographic Memory, a game which tests the audience’s ability to spot details in ten images. They are given seven seconds to look at an image, then respond to a question about a detail in the photo.

We wanted to create a campaign which tests whether the user has a visual memory, as well as producing something with strong visuals that journalists could embed in an article. To add further credibility for journalists, we tested the game on 2000 UK adults to see how they performed.  Just 1.2% of the respondents were able to get a perfect 10/10 score.

So far, Photographic Memory has 21 links from high authority news sites. It performed especially well with the UK tabloids, with the Sun, Daily Mail, Mirror, and Metro all covering the campaign within a few days of each other.

Our most recent campaign for a contact lens company launched on the 23rd August and has been the most successful of the three mentioned in this blog. Moving Perspectives takes optical illusions to a new level by showcasing seven mind-bending optical illusions made into moving GIF images.

We previously had success with In Perspective, a similar optical illusions piece with 11 illustrations of illusions which show the user how it tricks the brain into seeing something different. With Moving Perspectives, we explored this concept further by using dynamic illusions, which move to reveal how it works.

So far, Moving Perspectives has 41 links with a total of 2,103 Link Score. Again, this campaign proved popular with the UK tabloids including the Sun, Mirror and Daily Star all covering it. The campaign also received international coverage in Russia and Japan.

All three campaigns benefitted from quality designs which maximised the visual appeal of the campaigns and made them fun to interact with. The journalists we contacted appreciated the strong aesthetics in the three campaigns.

They also benefited from being embeddable on an article so readers can view them without having to leave the page. Moving Perspectives worked well in particular as the white background matched seamlessly with the page of an article.

As a result, the execution of these three campaigns has made it possible for us to build consistent links by appealing to lifestyle and pop-science journalists with similar content themes but a fresh idea which continues to attract coverage each time.

outREACH Conference

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One dreary morning in January we decided that it would be a good idea to host a conference in the summer, you know, just to challenge ourselves a little. The next day the venue was booked.

A week later we’d got the branding sorted and had put up a page on the website. Now there are just a few days to go until outREACH,  our first ever conference!

We are so humbled by the positive response we’ve had from brands, other agencies and freelancers, and we would like to thank everyone who has bought a ticket to support us. We cannot wait to meet you all on Friday!

We’d also like to say a massive thank you to our sponsors – DeepCrawl, ScribbleLive/Linkdex, Majestic & SEOMonitor, for their support.

As seasoned speakers, Lisa and Hannah knew exactly what was missing from the conference scene – a single track event 100% dedicated to outreaching content.  Our event follows the whole process, with sessions on coming up with creative campaigns, how to get your ideas signed off, mindset, how to (and how not to) approach journalists, processes, tools, tips, and so much more.  There is no other event like it in the SEO conference calendar.

We’ve hand-picked our speakers and the entire event has been planned around their specialist knowledge.  You can see a full list of speakers on our agenda page here.

Jim will show you how to tame your tigers

Jim will show you how to tame your tigers

Closing the conference is our keynote speaker, Mr Jim Lawless, with his tales on how he used the right mindset to ‘tame his tigers’ and become a jockey…oh, and also get in the record books.

outREACH takes place this Friday, 9th June, at the Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3EN.

If you would like to purchase a ticket (we have less than 15 remaining), click here and enter the promo code LASTCHANCE and you will be able to secure your ticket with a 30% discount off the ticket price.  

We would really love to see you there!

How to Outreach Journalists in the Age of “Churnalism”

‘Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, stories provided by news agencies, and other forms of pre-packaged material, instead of reported news, are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media.’

JournosChurnalism is a reality for many editorial teams in 2017. They no longer have the luxury of spending hours writing lyrical longform tomes on a subject of their choosing. Instead they are expected to produce 5-10 pieces of highly shareable content a day that will keep readers , and advertisers , coming back to the site.

As a result journalists need to not only know what’s happening now, they also need to know what’s coming next. The pressure is on them to deliver something that stands out in the hyper-competitive wormhole of the content marketplace.

So how do we effectively deliver content to such a pressured, busy group of people? What are the myths that need dispelling and what methods can we detail to ensure that we are doing everything within our power to ensure coverage from these websites?

  1. Give Them Everything

There’s a time and a place for suspense, but your outreach email isn’t it. You’re not Raymond Chandler, so include everything that a journalist needs to write an article in the first email.

The highest praise , and in many ways the ultimate goal , is to make it so that the journalist can practically copy and paste what you’ve said into their CMS, hit publish and move on to their next post.

The media landscape is geared towards one key factor: speed. If you can’t get there first, at least get there early. The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.

By adapting your outreach to this mind-set and not making your email a riddle, you’ve already done 90% of the journalist’s job for them, increasing your chances of gaining coverage.

  1. Follow Up Follow Up Follow Up!

Not wanting to sound too dramatic, but outreach can sometimes feel like you’re shouting into the void.  Despite multiple subject lines, constant tinkering and casting a wide net – replies don’t always come as thick and fast as you’d like.

But don’t let the silence stall your motivation. As Roman philosopher Seneca said ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity’. The opportunities for coverage don’t end after the first email. Put simply: follow-ups are fundamental, so make sure to keep communication up at your end.

Follow UpsI can count over a dozen recent instances where a journalist has enthusiastically covered a campaign without ever sending me back a reply. So firstly make sure to check to see if it’s been covered before you follow-up. As a start: search for the campaign (or set up alerts), check Majestic and monitor Google analytics. You may well find out about the coverage by reading about it online.

But when do you stop? I tend to keep it to two maximum, after all, they may well not be replying because the campaign isn’t good enough, it’s not their beat, or what you’ve written hasn’t sold it to them. But it’s important to let them make that decision themselves, and by stopping at the first hurdle, you’re making it for them.

  1. Multiple People Same Publication

Don’t be afraid to email the same piece of content to multiple journalists at the same publication.

Yes, it’s important to keep emails personalised, but as we have already established, journalists are very busy people, and they understand that you need to cast a wide net to get the coverage. They’re not going to take it personally, simply because they don’t have the time.

It’s not worth only sending an email to an editor in the hope they will delegate it to a writer, or just sending it to a writer in the hope they will pitch it to their editor. It’s not a two birds one stone scenario – you want to hit as many birds with as many stones and, repeatedly, when necessary.

Multiple PlacesUltimately it’s worth remembering that in 2017 you are not only competing with the swathes of other link-builders, outreach people and PR professionals, but also with the journalist’s time. If you respect that, and adapt to their reality instead of trying to force your own, you will have a lot more success, and potentially make some reliable contacts for the future.

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Want to know more?  We are hosting our very own conference 100% dedicated to outreach!   Click the outREACH Conference logo for more information.

What Makes News?

“How do I get a journalist to cover my topic?”

This is a question that PRs constantly ask.

Experience teaches a lot about what news media’s preferences are, but learning what the definition of news is can be rather helpful as well:

The definition of news is simple. News can be defined as information about current events.  freshman-reading-news

Not all information about current events is news though.

A piece of current information becomes news when it is new, unusual, interesting, significant and about people. This can be an event, action or occurrence.

Let’s look at a few examples to understand better what actually constitutes news:

‘A bus driver drove kids to school this morning’ is not news. This piece of current information is about people, but it’s nothing new, nor is it unusual, interesting or significant.

If the bus driver hadn’t turned up to work in the morning and the kids were left at the bus stop waiting for their lift to school, it would be news , this event is at least unusual, maybe even interesting on a local level.

The aforementioned example also proves the importance of newness. The fact that the bus driver did not turn up to work and the kids were left to make their own way to school is news on the day it happened, and possibly in print 24-hours later.

News has to be something new. Unusualness or significance doesn’t help if the piece of information is already known to the general public.

To make headlines outside of a local newsbeat, the bus driver story would need greater significance.

The significance could be increased, for example, by very poor weather conditions , if the kids had to wait in an ice storm, the event would have been more widely significant and, therefore, a lot more newsworthy.

The involvement of people is key in this example as well. If the driver didn’t turn up to work but there were no kids at the bus stop waiting, the bus driver’s absence would not make news.

Sometimes a story does not require people to be the subject , like a hurricane for example , but the hurricane only becomes news if it touches people, or something connected to people, such as a house or bridge. In an uninhabited area, a hurricane is not news, but as soon as it threatens a town or a city populated with people, it becomes newsworthy.

So how do we apply this in our work?

Last autumn we created Polar Night Counter for Expedia Finland. It is a tool that counts down the days to the polar night , a period of time when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon , and tells the length of the day in different parts of Finland.

Polar nights counter

The annual light phenomenon inside the polar circles has hardly anything to do with people , and one can’t call it very unusual either since it happens every year. How did we then manage to get any coverage for it?

The polar night isn’t about people but it definitely has an impact on people.

Just imagine being in Utsjoki, the northernmost town of Finland where in winter the sun doesn’t rise in 52 days. The dark period unarguably affects people , some say it makes them tired or even depressed, whereas others cherish the beauty of the mysterious blue light it creates. is the online news site of Finnish MTV, one of country's biggest commercial TV channels. is the online news site of Finnish MTV, one of country’s biggest commercial TV channels.

We turned the piece into news by listing the duration of polar night in northern cities and towns in Finland. We thought this would allow the newspapers’ readers to see clearly what the polar night means to them , in other words we made it clear how this phenomenon has an impact on people.

By picking the most interesting and newsworthy pieces of information and presenting it in an easily readable format we made it easy for media to cover the topic. The timing was also key: we contacted media early before the start of the polar night , because the start of the polar night is only news when it happens, not a day or two after.  Polar Night Counter wasn’t only covered by local publications, but national too on the eve of the start of polar night in Utsjoki.

Ilta-Sanomat is one of the biggest online newspapers in Finland.

Ilta-Sanomat is one of the biggest online newspapers in Finland

So much about news! Hope this example helped you to understand the concept of news better.

Sources and further reading: The News Manual

Love is All Around

“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, Love is all around me, and so the feelings grows!”

These two lines of the cheesy 90’s pop tune perfectly describe the feeling at Verve Search HQ last week. It was the return of LOVE WEEK, a chance for the whole office to express how they feel about one another through the medium of being SECRET ANGELS!

Every employee in the company (including the CEO) has their name put into a bowl and one at a time names are drawn.  The name you draw is the person you will be a secret angel to for the week. The key to a successful love week  is keeping your guise as secret angel – a secret.

IMG_20170309_134849You don’t have to spend lots of money on fancy-schmancy gifts, anonymous emails and little love notes are often the best love week gifts.  This love week was even bigger and better than before, with object of affection ranging from flowers to beer to LP’s and Unicorn Poop!

Marcelle, our very lovely Project Co-Ordinator, gave this nice quote about love week: â€œLove week is great not just because you get presents or material gifts, but because people really go through such effort to learn more about you and what you LOVE! That looks different for everybody but it means that by the end of the week, you’ve got to know your co-worker a lot better”


A few years ago, Verve Search were inspired by the clever folks at Mindvalley to encourage love to be part of “everyone’s job description for five days”.  Verve  been doing love week every quarter since, and it has become a fond tradition here at Verve Search. ♥    

Gera knows H.T.M.L!

   Alex in the mood for Love (week)   Jaz looks very happy with her secret angel!


How We Got Guardians of the Galaxy Director, James Gunn, To Comment on Our Campaign

When James Gunn, Director of Guardians of the Galaxy, spent two hours on Twitter discussing one of our recent creative pieces, we knew it had gone viral. Following the success of Directors Cut, we’d like to share a bit about how we got there.

Made for our client,, the piece racked up some nice numbers to go along with James Gunn’s comments on Twitter and Facebook:

  • Over 48k shares in 48 hours
  • More than 437 pieces of coverage, 90% linking directly to the piece (of which, less than 5% were no-followed) and about 40% directly linking to’s life insurance product page
  • Coverage on big name sites like The Independent, NME, IGN, Entertainment Weekly and The Guardian
  • Viewing it through PR metrics – coverage on sites with a combined reach of nearly 400 million people, producing an AVE of £3.8 million.

All of the above happened within the first week of the campaign going live.

The Concept

Life insurance is a tricky subject to create content around due to the relatively serious nature of the product itself. We’re always looking to create content that covers multiple interest areas so that we can outreach in multiple verticals, so talking about fictional deaths in movies seemed to solve two problems at the same time.

We quickly came across a fan-made piece that had rounded up on-screen deaths and knew immediately that we were on to something:

Despite being a simple (maybe even ugly) graph, the above content managed to achieve some organic coverage on Business Insider, where it was viewed over 42k times. When this came out in early 2014 it clearly resonated with its audience despite the deadliest film being, unsurprisingly, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which is pretty much 3 hours of war.

We realised that by refreshing the data we would likely end up with a whole new list (there were some films since 2014 that we were just itching to add). By playing with the data we knew we could pull out new angles and by working on the design we could make it more accessible.

The Data

As much as we wanted to, binge watching movies wasn’t going to be an economical way to get the information. The original piece had pulled the information from a forum and so our original plan was to do the same. We updated the information and then ran until one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the piece – the data had hardly changed. At some point in late 2013, the forum had lost popularity and hardly any new films had been added since.

At that point we had a choice – either ditch the piece, go ahead with the information we had or find another solution. As professional maze walkers we naturally chose the latter. Through relatively extensive searching we found another option – a mixture of YouTube videos and forums that had newer counts, using the same methodology. By merging this data together, and adding in a serious chunk of validation, we now had a fresh perspective and interesting data we could use. Rising as the standout story from it was Guardians of the Galaxy in first position. Who would have thought that a film that features virtually no bloodshed – a Disney film – would be the deadliest? Not only do comic book/ Marvel movies practically have their own sub-genre (and separate list of fan sites) online, but Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is currently in production, making the campaign timely.

The Execution

At its heart the piece is a listicle; but if that’s all it became the best execution may have just been as a press release. What value could we add? We decided that, by adding information about each film in our top-ten, as well as imagery, we could do all the research for journalists, making the piece incredibly easy for journalists to write-up.

Meanwhile, we’d finished playing with the data, looking for secondary angles. We found interesting stories around years (“are films getting deadlier”), genre (“are horror films really the most deadly”) and ratings (“deadliest films aren’t necessarily R-rated”). We doubled-down on the execution to add a way to explore these secondary angles. These hooks were implicit so that we could take different angles to different journalists.

The outcome was:

  • Simple – Guardians of the Galaxy Deadliest Film Ever
  • Unexpected – it’s a family movie
  • Concrete – We tell you exactly how many deaths and death, in itself, is a pretty concrete concept; and
  • thanks to detailed supporting information we made available to journalists, Credible.

We knew that readers were likely to only read the headline, which meant that it was inevitable fiery debate would occur as to why the most deadly film wasn’t, instead, something like Star Wars where whole planets blew up. This emotional element would help to propel the campaign through social media, making it highly shareable.


We don’t waste our time with bloggers and mid-tier publications. We believe that taking our campaigns to the largest sites in the world gives them access to huge audiences, which in turn leads to secondary pick up and huge results. This was no exception. What better place for a piece that talked about Guardians of the Galaxy than The Guardian? It’d give the piece a credibility boost, access to a huge audience and is a great link to have within itself. So, as the first site to be outreached to it was also the first coverage to go live:

Guardian coverage of Directors Cut

Here’s a little secret – it also went live on NME and the Independent almost simultaneously. By making sure it appeared on multiple large sites at the same time we were hoping to begin an avalanche of coverage.

That’s when this happened:

James Gunn comments on Directors Cut

James would spend over two hours on Twitter, sending over 50 tweets, talking about our campaign. It suited his agenda for the story to blow up as much as possible because he was busy feeding the publicity machine around the new movie. Meanwhile, the story was breaking elsewhere, gaining over 900 upvotes on Reddit and the social pressure from the coverage was creating a Twitter Moment:

Directors Cut Became a Twitter Moment

Our outreach team quickly picked up James Gunn’s tweet and added it into their outreach emails – providing credibility to the piece and a further angle. In fact, James’ tweets were so noteworthy, many of the publications that had already covered the piece went back and covered it a second time. So far, within two weeks of launching, it has appeared on Yahoo a total of four times.

Soon, the piece had been covered on over 400 sites including:

Coverage Highlights

Our Outreach team kept ahead of the coverage and, because we speak 12 different languages, we were able to take it to publications all around the world; starting new fires of publicity across the globe (including in France, Finland, Russia and Brazil).

Overall, we smashed all targets set for this piece by starting with a simple concept, producing new and surprising data, executing like a boss and staying nimble with outreach, getting coverage from some of the best sites in the world.


A small lesson on semiotics from BrightonSEO

How do you create successful content? 

This is a perpetually hot topic and many speakers at BrightonSEO  focused on this. Unhappily, from time to time content campaigns fail to achieve the results expected and we’re left with the question , what went wrong?

To try to answer this was the aim of Verve Search’s, Hannah Smith. In her talk she asserted that the main challenge is around creating content that resonates with people. To understand what means something to people we need to be able to look beyond the literal meanings of the messages we create.

The mystery of the success of the beer map

Successful content is something that makes people ‘feel’. Sometimes it can be surprising what content evokes feelings. A good example of this is this campaign , let’s call it the Beer Map that received coverage from over 500 sites.


The piece itself is very simple. It’s an non-stylised map of the world and on top of each country is the logo of its most popular beer.

In Hannah’s view, the reason for its success wasn’t the obvious interpretation that many people like beer, but that it had a deeper meaning. The associations of the beer map took people back to their holidays where they had tasted the local beers, as well as unveiling the true drinking habits of each nation.

And the semiotics!

The concept of looking beyond literal meaning took me back to university and the lectures I attended about semiotics. Those who wish to understand the deeper meanings of a piece of content, might find Roland Barthes’ account of sign’s denotation and connotation useful. I never thought I would bring it up in this kind of context , but now I will!

Denotation is the literal meaning of a sign. Connotation, on the other hand, is the associative, second-level meaning that is culture and context dependent. For example, a picture of a lightning literally means a lightning but if you move it to a streetlamp it means risk of electric shock. In a different context lightning could have another meaning e.g. in comic books’ speech bubble it may mean that the character is angry.

If we use the same framework for the beer map, we see that the beer map was literally just a map of the world with some beer logos but it evoked positive connotations in people. In peoples’ minds it wasn’t a beer map anymore but a re-visit to past holidays and taste experiences.

The distinction between the denotation and connotation, literal and associative meanings, can be a good framework for analysing the success of any content.

Successful content doesn’t only make people feel , it makes people feel the right emotions , and to predict this understanding, connotations can help.