Public relations is often associated with media relations, crisis communication, or reputation management. But many of those same skills, mainly writing and pitching, can be put to great use in the Internet marketing world. A practice that is becoming very common lately is content marketing, or, using content to grow your brand. Many outlets are in desperate need for content to populate their sites or blogs with the latest news or the insider perspective on certain subjects. Taking the time to prepare quality content off-site can be tremendously beneficial to your SEO efforts.
I Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine
Contributed content is very popular amongst many online publications today, due to lack of staff. By offering a writer a penned article, written in an unbiased tone, brands can control the messaging of content and more importantly, land a quality link within the article. The first step is similar to the media relations approach in that one would pitch a blogger or editor on a certain topic. If interested, he/she would ask for a guest post with certain criteria (word count, limit on links, topics, etc). Although it might take time to follow through on this process, it can be quite valuable in that the messages and link(s) are controlled by the brand.
Step by Step Process
Like anything in the marketing department, a strategy must first be put in place. What are you trying to accomplish? Raising awareness? Driving people to a certain page? Just collecting quality links? Understanding your goal(s) will help to identify what type of sites you want to target. Putting a plan in place will help you stay focused on making sure you stay at a reasonable amount of hours (if you are an agency). Linking can really take over your life, or become a full job in and of itself, if you aren’t careful. Here’s the steps I take when tackling my task:
1) Come up with a topic. Work with the client to identify what you’d like to talk about. They might have something already written. Perhaps a white paper or a blog article? If so, these can be re-worked into a contributed post.
2) Build your list. Like a media list, this should be focused around your goals and the piece of content that is being offered. This might be a list of 10-15 bloggers, or maybe it’s five trade outlets. Whatever the case, build out your spreadsheet that contains the outlet name, writer, contact info, a link to an article to justify why it’s relevant, etc.
3) Write the pitch. This shouldn’t include the article itself. You first want to interest the person on the other end. Why? Two reasons. The first is that you want to make sure you understand any criteria before they get their hands on that valuable piece content. You want to make sure they are going to include your link, for example. Secondly, you want to tailor the article based on the publication. Once they agree, then you can write or make your edits to a pre-written piece to fix the content based on that outlet’s audience.
4) Send the pitches out and respond quickly to any follow up questions. Make sure you tailor your pitches. It’s great to already establish a rapport with a writer before you send a pitch. Perhaps you can use social media to do this. Keep in mind, this is a long term strategy. You might form a relationship now and pitch an article six months from now.
5) Once an outlet accepts, adjust the content and send (or write and finalize the content if you were not working off a piece that was already prepared). Try to determine when the post might run and monitor for placement so you can double check on the link and inform the client.
Questions to Keep in Mind
Here are some questions to keep in mind when exercising this content marketing strategy.
– Are there any fees associated with this opportunity? Some bloggers will require payment with the option to place content. Google frowns upon this because they don’t like to reward the practice of paying for links (even if it’s indirectly). I also don’t care for this either because reputable outlets (like trade outlets) won’t take payment for content. Thus, I’m also leery of the quality of the site when they ask for payment. Really, it’s up to you and your brand and what type of approach you’d like to take.
– Are the links follow or no-follow? Follow links are indexed within Google. They give you higher quality scores. No-follow will help a web surfer find their way back to your site (it’s a working hyperlink) but does not grant any SEO value. Wikipedia links, for example, are all no-follow links. Some outlets might place content but will only provide no-follows. Still others make you pay for a no-follow link and make you pay more for a follow-link. Understand these things when you are communicating with your contact person. Keep in mind that no-follow links still can offer referral traffic, so don’t always dismiss them upfront.
– Is the content unique? Duplicate content is a mortal sin in the content marketing world. You cannot write a blog post and place it 20 different places on the web. Google will notice. You will not see the same value from these efforts as you would if you had 20 different pieces of content placed throughout the web. The best approach is to do a rewrite. Have a thesaurus handy and write the article over using different words while keeping the main messages intact. Once done, you’ll want to compare the texts. A simple site that I use is CopyScape. Copy and paste your two articles and this site tells you, in a percentage, how alike the two articles are. You are bound to have some similar words if the theme remains the same. But you can probably get this to be less than 30% different just from a rewrite. If that’s the case, Google should reward you (in better quality score) from both articles. There’s only so many rewrites you can do to one articles. If you can’t adjust anymore, then move onto a new topic. Again, it’s better to have a few unique pieces of content than a dozen duplicate articles.
As mentioned by many SEO experts, PR is a fantastic way to obtain very high-quality links. By securing coverage, quotes or mentions in reliable news sources, you can have links being directed back to a web page, giving you a higher quality score and better rankings. With content marketing, you remove the “interview” component from the equation and offer content directly to the outlets themselves. And content doesn’t always have to a textual. One should think from the perspective of a journalist or blogger. What can you provide to a writer that might help them enhance a story? Can you provide them with an infographic, photos, videos, statistics from an internal study, etc? All these things can be delivered to outlets too – often in exchange for a mention and link. Keep this in mind when you are pitching for contributed content.