Cedarwood’s resident Digital PR expert Alex Fisher talks to Emma Stretton about the power of puzzles in earning links.
Most people know that SEO often means keywords. Backlinks, on the other hand, are a slightly lesser-known buzzword and, yet, they’re an incredibly important way to increase your website’s search engine rankings. Backlinks are when another website, preferably a tried and trusted one links back to your website. They essentially tell search engines your website is one worth going to.
Building genuine links into a website is a great way to improve the overall authority of the site. Having websites with a high domain rating direct users to your site indicates to search engines that your website is also trustworthy and will increase the authority of your website. In turn, this will improve your website’s rankings. A website’s authority is one of the key factors that Google considers when ranking websites, so the more authority your website has the better chance it has to climb up the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
Let’s look at how we’ve used this recently for one of our clients: Rimmers Music. When Christmas kicked in we thought it would be a great time to grab some extra coverage and use the opportunity to build links into the Rimmers Music site. Backlinks aren’t always game, set and match and we knew we needed some attention-seeking content that would definitely get Rimmers Music noticed.
After an unusual year, the run up to Christmas 2020 needed some festive cheer and light heartedness. With that in mind, we decided to create a Brainteaser based on Christmas carolling (because it was for a music shop – see what we did there)?! Journalists and publications benefit from brainteasers because they’re shareable, they keep people on the page and they bring light to balance the shade.
The Rimmers Music brainteaser was a big picture full of people singing Christmas carols. The idea was that you had to spot the one little boy with his hands over his ears refusing to take part. We tied the concept in with data found by Rimmers Music the previous year, which uncovered that a quarter of Brits won’t open the door to a Christmas caroller. This gave the press release more weight and more for publications to work with. The end result was for websites to include an article about the brainteaser with a link to Rimmers Music. Whilst we do want to secure those all-important backlinks, we are also aiming to get as much coverage as we can. Getting your client seen on major websites with hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of readers is a result in itself.
86 pieces of coverage
Average Domain Rating – 26
We don’t like to brag (well maybe a little) but it did the trick. The Rimmers Music brainteaser resulted in 86 pieces of coverage and 39 backlinks. Incredibly, one article alone led to 1000 new users clicking on the link and heading to the Rimmers Music website. Most sites ran the story early on in December but some picked it up later, providing additional coverage. It was the Christmas gift that kept on giving.
Backlinks signal to search engines that a website can be trusted. They’re a bit like a good friend recommending a restaurant; you’re more likely to go there if you were sent by someone you trust. Not to mention, the more people shouting about your service, the more likely this is to convert into sales. Getting into a search engine’s good books might not sound that exciting but finding new ways to get noticed and creating content that lands is what SEO experts (like us) thrive on.
Many PRs spend hours, weeks and even months putting their heart and soul into their latest content. However, great content can sometimes be let down by a poor pitch.
Pitching to a journalist shouldn’t be where your content strategy fails!
We have compiled a list of our top tried and tested tips that will increase both open and response rate and ultimately land coverage in your desired publications.
How To Improve Email Open Rate
A clear subject line
A summarised introduction
Reduce attachment size
How To Improve Email Response Rate
Be direct with your request
Conduct research before sending your email
Ensure that you follow up
Keep it short and sweet!
How To Improve Open Rate
Ensure your subject line is clear
Subject lines are CRUCIAL!
It’s really important to show a journalist that your email is relevant to them and their audience. Make this clear within your subject line by summarising your key points in one snappy sentence. It is also useful to state what kind of story you are pitching, whether it’s a case study or some new, juicy data.
Be sure to write your subject line in the style of the desired publication. Some publications, such as The Sun, like sensationalised headlines, whereas business publications for example, prefer the more professional angles.
Here are a few examples:
NEW DATA: 1 in 3 Brits won’t invite vegans to Christmas dinner, survey finds
RE: Garden furniture review – holiday at home this summer
See the Dog-tor: could prescription pups end lockdown loneliness?
It is nice to have punny and punchy subject lines, however, this is not always necessary. Sometimes being clear and straight to the point will do the trick.
Summarise! Summarise! Summarise!
Summarise your pitch within the first sentence of your email – and keep it short. Journalists are often strapped for time and can get hundreds of emails a day, so make their job a little easier for them.
Condensing a whole press release or email into one line can sometimes be tricky, so try to imagine that you are speaking to a friend and summarising a project that you are working on at work – this should help.
Personalise your emails
An oldie but goldie! Make each email personal to the recipient. It’s so easy to spot a mass-churned out email that doesn’t have any personalisation. Ensure your email has the target journalist’s name on it and potentially reference their publication or recent work that they have done which is relevant to your pitch.
Reduce attachment size
Be careful with attachments, as big documents within an email can get your message stuck in spam filters. If you need to send over additional content such as images, include a Dropbox link where the journalists can download these items themselves. You can also include a link to your website that has all the info the journalist needs, as this also gives them an incentive to link to your site.
How To Improve Response Rate
Being direct with your request
Be direct! Make sure that you ask direct questions.
Here are some examples of classic lines that can easily be converted to more direct questions:
“Let me know if you’re interested” and “Let me know what you think” can be easily converted to “What do you think?”
“Let me know as soon as possible” can be converted to “Please let me know by Friday at 4 pm”
As recommended in Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini in “The small BIG: small changes that spark big influence”, people are more encouraged to fulfil a request when they have engaged in some sort of commitment to it. This can be achieved by asking journalists a few extra specific questions about how they plan on fulfilling your request…something that requires more than a “yes” answer.
For example, try asking the journalist to let you know ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ they will publish the content from your press release.
Research is essential
PRs can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the more contacts they send their pitch to, the better – but this simply isn’t the case. Do your research for your mailing list; the number one complaint that journalists have about PRs is that they send them irrelevant pitches.
A well thought out, targeted email will have a much better open and engagement rate than a blanket email that is spammed to the masses. If you want to improve your open rate and get journalists to engage with your content, then do your research.
We would recommend picking 10 publications you want to target and find the best contact at those publications.
Consider a few things:
Who has recently written about the topic that your story relates to? This is key – if a journalist wrote an article about your topic a year ago and haven’t done a piece since then, find a better contact.
The tone of voice. If your topic is broad, then there may be a few different journos that cover it, so pick a journalist whose tone of voice and style matches the content you’re sending out. For example, if your story teases about an error on a TV show, you may need a journalist that has a more satirical approach, or if your piece is about the latest must-have fashion item, then you’ll want to target a journo with more serious sartorial credentials.
Here are two examples that show how ample research before a release can really benefit the pitch.
We recently sent out a brainteaser to just two journalists. This may seem like too small of a media list however, we had done our research and these contacts were extremely targeted. In the end, we got great coverage in 14 publications off the back of these targeted choices.
The above press release worked well for us because the journalist we pitched to mainly writes about Coronation Street, so having ‘Corrie’ in the subject line was key here.
The timing of this pitch was also great: there was a big debate on social media and in the press about an incident that had happened on Coronation Street. We acted fast to get this release out, focusing on the fact that people were in fact concentrating on the wrong mishap and explaining the real issue from a legal standpoint.
This was great for our client as they could also show off their expertise in the field. A win-win.
Overall the piece gained 42 pieces of coverage including Express, Star, MSN and many regional publications.
Send a follow up email
If you’re not already sending follow-up emails then you are missing a trick! This is a simple way to gain a response. When you do follow up, try to put a twist on your initial email. Adding in a little extra info, or tying the story in with a topical event, gives you more of a reason to chase the journalist.
A general rule is to follow up the next week and then again if there are any updates in the story, so keep an eye on the news and recent trends for any reasons to follow up.
Do you have a graphic that can be reformatted in other ways?
Do you have hi-res images that you can send over?
Do you have samples to offer? Use samples/gifts to your advantage here to reiterate that they are available, this will always catch the journalist’s eye.
Make your intentions clear. If your number one target of your content campaign is to get links, then let the journalist know this in the pitch so they know what you’re expecting.
A simple “If you’d like to use this story, please credit this story with a link to [client website]” is enough to make your goals transparent.
This saves both you and the journalist time, as they know what you want before they take the story and prevents you from having to chase for links that the journo wasn’t aware they needed to include.
Keep it short and sweet
Journalists are short on time, remember. So giving your story a concise, succinct pitch demonstrates to the journalist that it has a clear angle and they can decide straight away whether they want it or not. If you can’t sum up your story in a short email pitch (less than 300 words) then it’s not ready to go out. Try sticking to 3-4 lines, or even better, bullet points to summarise the most important topics.
If you found this blog useful for improving your email response rate then head to our blog to check out more.
At Cedarwood Digital, we tend to generate most leads for our clients through Google Ads and custom lead capture landing pages. However, there are many other simple ways that we have utilised to successfully generate leads: here are our top 5 recommendations.
Create engaging content
Relevant and engaging content in this digital age remains the best way to get someone’s attention and bring them to your website. What makes content engaging, you may ask? Check out tools like buzzsumo.com or ahrefs.com which show the most shared pieces of content in your field that have gone viral, and get some inspiration from there.
The golden rule for any piece of content, according to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, is to give value to the reader. Forget about trying to sell your stuff. Put out great content and expect nothing in return. By providing valuable content you establish readers trust in your expertise. This lays a foundation that can lead to a conversation about your product or services.
Don’t hesitate to give a lot of value: research shows that posts with 2,400 words get shared the most.
Create “how to” videos
Youtube is the fastest growing online platform by engagement rate, and online video viewership surpassed TV viewership in 2017. More and more people are looking for the right videos to solve their problems. Search queries containing “how to” are growing 33% annually. This creates an ample opportunity to create video content, ranging from how to create pivot tables in Excel, to how to paint your ceiling.
You should really think about what expertise you have that could solve a problem for your customers. Again, this is giving unconditional value to build your credibility. As a result of watching your video, a prospect could visit your site and get in touch with you.
Use customer reviews
If you are providing an online platform, no matter how big or small, make sure that you sign up to online review platforms like TrustRadius.com or G2Crowd.com. These reviews will massively boost the visibility and authority of your products and services. Review sites such as these usually have a high rank for many software comparison searches. Backlinks from these sites are also very valuable in terms of SEO.
References and referrals are one of the key aspects that influence buying decisions between two similar products. If you ask your happiest clients to contribute to these platforms it will go a long way in terms of building credibility, and prominence of reviews on these platforms has the potential to bring you inbound leads.
Add a quiz or estimate calculator to your website
If you get users to your website, it would then be of value to have an interactive tool available. There you could ask them a few questions and dependent on the subject area, provide them with an answer which will be of interest or value to them. This is a great way to capture prospect emails and generate engagement, literally.
Another example is the lead capture form on Airsorted, a service for Airbnb hosts. On their website, users need to enter their postcode and number of bedrooms to get an estimate of much money their property could earn on Airbnb, whilst providing useful information for the business.
Host a webinar
Finally, online webinars are a quick and easy way to communicate with prospects, customers and employees. Pick a topic that is relevant to your industry and find the best expert within your company or among your clients. Set a specific date and time, and create an event landing page with a simple lead capture form.
Promote the webinar everywhere you can – Linkedin Ads are great for this because you can place them in front of the most relevant audiences. As you get signups, remember to send reminders both before and after the event. Furthermore, it gives your sales team a reason to get in touch with those prospects and engage in conversation.
When it comes to planning and budgeting for a new campaign, analysing the success of previous campaigns is paramount. Therefore, knowing the monetary value of coverage is hugely beneficial, providing teams with the ability to make informed decisions and allocate spend accordingly.
We have put together a small guide featuring one simple tool that can be utilised to extract the monetary value of your PR.
As a small or start up-business, trying to get in the media is an important strategy, but can often feel like a daunting, nay impossible task. Where do you even begin? And do you need a big budget to make a difference?
At Cedarwood Digital, we work with clients with a variety of budgets from small-scale to larger campaigns. So we know first-hand that you can make an impact, regardless of size or budget.
We’ve rounded up our top tips and broken down the process of how to get media coverage for your business, so you can start a media storm.
1. Understand what is valuable to journalists
Content that offers a new and interesting angle
When creating a press release, make sure to bear in mind that journalists receive countless similar emails a day. You need to be sure to provide something valuable that they can’t get elsewhere. Try to make sure your content is something new, with research to support or challenge thinking.
Surveys that provide journalists with interesting and topical statistics are a great way to get your business featured in the press. Whilst there are companies that will run surveys for you, these can be costly, so SME’s can benefit from using their own customer databases to conduct surveys and research.
Images are also crucial for a strong press release, as we live in an increasingly visual world. Supplying a few strong images to support your press release saves the journalist time and energy sourcing a relevant image themselves, and could be the decision-maker for whether or not your story gets featured.
2. Know your target audience
Personalise press releases for each publication
Include regional and local press
Work out an angle to spin your story to make it relevant and interesting to the readership of any publication that you’re looking target. Try not to generalise content and send it across all genres of media – this will be clear to the journalist and look lazy. It’s best to brainstorm and research topical news, upcoming events or media trends in that domain that your content can be linked to.
Don’t neglect regional press, as a local angle can also be a great hook. Though regional publications will have a smaller audience than nationals, they offer the chance to showcase news and features on a local scale and can be easier to get featured in than bigger publications. If you’re offering research and statistics that cover the whole of the UK, try breaking your research down into key city demographics so that it is more relevant to regional publications. For example, if you have conducted a survey that investigates adult usage of mobile phones in the UK, you could break the results down into cities to make the statistics more relevant.
3. Create a list of media contacts
Use paid media databases or free tools
Make connections over social media
Though you may already be familiar with a few key publications you would like to target, it’s essential to expand your horizons and discover more outlets that may be interested in covering your story. Fortunately, there are multiple online resources to help you to create a thorough media list – including niche, trade publications to nationals.
Response Source, Vuelio and Gorkana all offer subscriptions to media databases, allowing you to gain access to a wealth of influential journalists’ contacts at top publications. Or for those with smaller budgets, websites like Hunter.io offer the chance to search a limited number of journalist contacts for free. Both Twitter and LinkedIn can be also be good places to start for building connections – monitor #journorequest and #prrequest on Twitter to look out for relevant feature opportunities and connect with interesting journalists on LinkedIn.
When building your press list, make sure you pay attention to digital publications as well as print. Getting featured in digital publications is not only good for PR but also for your website’s SEO rankings. Links to your website from popular online publications will help boost your website’s overall SEO (more info on this here) and so the online publishing world should form an integral part in your PR strategy.
4. Research the targeted journalist
Know the topics that journalists like to cover
Pay attention to deadlines
Don’t harass journalists
Once you’ve built your press list, make sure to pay close attention to detail when sourcing the relevant journalists’ contact details. Research who you need to contact, considering their speciality and position within the company, and then you can approach the target publication to source their details and preferred method of receiving information. You don’t want to come across as rude or unprofessional to journalists by getting their details wrong.
Make sure to stay organised with deadlines and publications dates to avoid pestering journalists when they’re working against the clock. There’s no problem in getting in touch to ask if a certain topic is of interest, but don’t harass them. If you’ve followed up twice via email and have still not had a response, then unfortunately the journalist is not interested in your pitch.
5. Design your press release to make an impression
Present your press release in a way that is as easy as possible for a journalist to dissect. Generally, try to stick to the following rules:
Immediately summarise the essence of the content in the first paragraph
Don’t use technical terms which aren’t accessible, and avoid just stating facts
Try to support your story with evidence or statistics if possible
Be black and white with information you provide – making claims about your business that you can’t back up will be complicated and unprofessional
Detail your contact information at the end of the press release, and make sure to be efficient and available for follow up calls
Include ‘Notes to the Editor’ at the bottom of your release. This is where you can include useful background information that does not feature in your press release, such as an overview of your business’ services, how you conducted your research for your press release or a brief history of your business. Then you’re ready to press send!
6. Add supporting information & special extras to the press release
Offer interviews, case studies and photographs
Consider exclusivity for larger publications
To give your press release a bit more zest, it’s worth considering what extra support you could provide to each journalists. Publications often want to get unique angles on stories to avoid duplicated articles, so offering think about offering a case study, interview or photograph to sweeten the deal.
If you have a larger publication in mind that you are eager to work with, then you could offer them the exclusive on the story first, as being featured on one large publication with a significant audience could be more worthwhile than features on ten smaller publications.
7. Build relationships with journalists
Be a reliable contact
For long term benefits, provide news and content on a regular basis to journalists, stick to deadlines, make yourself available for interviews and comment. This way you will create a great reputation for yourself as a useful contact and build a relationship with the press. Don’t be intimidated when getting in touch with a journalist – if you’ve followed these steps and consistently deliver, your media coverage will soar in no time.
If you’re in the digital marketing world, you’ve undoubtedly heard that getting backlinks from other websites is crucial for SEO. It’s important to utilise anything that can help to boost your website’s search ranking, so we’ll shed some light on why links are so important and teach you how to build them yourself.
Why are links important for SEO?
Building backlinks to your website (getting other websites to link back to yours) sends out a trust signal to Google that your website has good authority, and therefore should be ranked higher. However, this depends on the type and quality of the website that posts the link. Essentially, if a quality website which Google trusts links back to your site, Google determines that you too are a quality website, so should be ranked higher. You can work out the quality of a website by checking its domain rating on websites such as Ahrefs or Moz: the higher score the better.
However, Google can also penalise for backlinks which it sees as unnatural. For example, spamming forums, creating tonnes of directory listings, paying bloggers on fiver to link to your website are unnatural ways to build links, which in turn will lower your position on Google. It is far better for SEO to secure a few strong links a month than to build hundreds of low-quality backlinks in a short space of time.
Hence, you should always ensure that links have a natural connection to your business, which you can achieve with the following techniques.
It’s always great exposure when a publisher features your brand in their article, though sometimes they will mention a brand without linking back to the brand’s website. Whilst this can be frustrating, it’s easy to maximise this opportunity and secure a link from a high-quality website. Most of the hard work has already been done because a journalist has already noticed and written about your brand. Simply drop them an email thanking them for featuring your business and request a link to your website be added to the page in case their readers want to find out more.
Tracking brand mentions online is very easy to set up so that you don’t miss these opportunities. There are several web-monitoring tools that help you do this, such as Google Alerts (free), Ahrefs alerts and Gorkana. Some publications may have editorial policies not to include external links, but it’s always best to email and check.
Now that GDPR is in place, media databases with opted-in contact details of journalists are more important than ever for sourcing good quality PR opportunities and contacts. There are a variety of tools you can pay for, as well as free databases that scrape public email addresses from across the web.
One relatively cost-effective way to find feature opportunities is through journalist alerts. These are email alerts that journalists send out to source contacts or information for the features that they are writing. You can then respond to queries that are relevant to your brand, offering information, images, product reviews or quotes. Not only do these tools allow you to effectively build links in a natural way, but they also allow you to develop relationships with key journalists in your market without the need of a pricey media database. Building your own database of journalists that you have successfully worked with makes it easier to work with them again in the future, as you can either contact them with valuable content or they may contact you with relevant upcoming features to you.
Big-budget content campaigns can bring in a lot of high quality links, but exploring your local link opportunities can also be a good cost-effective way to build links on a smaller scale. Investigate whether you have any current connections that you could source a link from. Is your Managing Director an alumni of a prestigious university? If so, perhaps they could make a donation or share their business expertise on their website. Is there a local charity you could work with? Or a local group linked to your industry? Explore current connections that your staff and management have to see if there are any natural links that could be secured by sending an email.
If a key competitor outranks you for several of your keywords, performing an analysis of where their links are coming from is a great way to see what kind of outreach work they are undertaking. Tools such as Ahrefs enable you to identify which publications your competitors are receiving links from, as well as spark ideas for potential outreach content.
Are there any high quality review websites that your competitor has a link on? If they do and your brand doesn’t, then this can be an area to explore. Do they have any links from high quality bloggers? Again, if they do then you can contact the blogger who wrote the article to introduce your brand and highlight what you can offer them, should they be planning any articles which you could contribute to.
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