For those who’ve been following the developments in the SEO world over the last decade, you would know that SEO is no longer just about tweaking title tags and meta descriptions. With each update, Google’s algorithm increases the focus on highly relevant content and quality backlinks pointing to your website. Ideally, your content will bring so much value to users that it naturally attracts links.
This is where having a tailored digital PR strategy comes in. To keep things simple, digital PR aims to improve brand awareness through digital channels such as blogs and social media. When integrated with your SEO strategy, the end-goal is to have your brand mentioned in the most authoritative blogs and websites in your industry, with a link pointing back to your website. Some common ways to improve SEO performances via digital PR include:
- Guest posting – where your brand publishes branded content on someone else’s website or blog;
- Brand mention link building – where you capitalise on pre-existing brand mentions to build links to your website.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned about digital PR after some time in this field:
1. It’s all about the content ideas
Guest posting is a great opportunity to build brand awareness by establishing yourself as a voice of authority on other people’s websites and blogs. However, your digital PR efforts won’t be worth much if the new audience you’re reaching doesn’t find your guest post interesting or valuable.
Therefore, the first step of a successful digital PR strategy is to thoroughly research content ideas, making sure that you’re approaching each topic with a unique perspective, rather than recreating content that already exists and contributing to an oversaturated space.
Moreover, you’ll find that pitching to publications yields far more positive responses when your guest post is unique, timely, and offers a fresh point of view.
Here are a few ways to research and refine original topic ideas:
- Identify what makes your brand unique and how you can offer a new perspective on relevant topics that may have already been widely discussed.
- Do some keyword research. Understanding how users look for your product online will help you create content that resonates with them. Have a look at the “related searches” at the bottom of Google’s search results page to find out what topics are related to your product, and make the most of Google’s autocomplete tool.
- Keep an eye on what competitors and key players in your industry are currently talking about. Current trends are a great inspiration for content. Make the most of social listening tools such as BuzzSumo to find topics that generate the most engagement.
2. Select your content partners carefully
Once you have a clear idea of the content you’ll be pitching to publications, the next essential step is to decide exactly who you want to reach. Ideally you’ll already have a clear vision of your target market before choosing your topic – but guest posting is also a great opportunity to get your brand in front of a new audience. So ask yourself:
- What is the dream audience you would like to engage?
- Is there an untapped group of consumers that could be interested in your product?
- Who is the ideal reader you had in mind during content ideation? What are their interests? What type of content do they consume? And most importantly, what are their favourite places to go to find information, inspiration, or entertainment online?
Answering that last question will allow you to narrow your outreach down to the most relevant content partners.
When selecting content partners for digital PR, there are a few things to consider, including:
- Brand fit – does the partner align well with your brand image and values?
- Competing products – if you’re reaching out to another brand, ensure there’s minimal conflict of interest. Does the brand have competing products or services with your own?
- Location – do you only want to partner with publications in the same location as you? If the goal of the campaign is to bring awareness to a brand with physical stores, it would make more sense to partner with content partners from your area. If the aim is to build awareness around an online brand available worldwide, you could reach out to a wider scope of publications.
- Link gap – digital PR is a great opportunity to bridge what we SEOs call the “link gap”, meaning the gap in the number of backlinks between you and your main online competitors. Conducting a competitive link analysis will allow you to identify which websites you most need a backlink from in order to stay relevant against your competitors.
3. Don’t just do it for the backlink
A common stereotype of link building is that SEOs are willing to post on any website (no matter how outdated or irrelevant) as long as it has a high domain authority.
At Yoghurt Digital, we take a digital PR-driven approach to link building. Guest blogging is a great way to get your product in front of a new audience, but that requires carefully selected content partners that are relevant and a good brand fit.
If you want to make sure you’re not getting carried away by the sheer prospect of adding a shiny new link to your backlink profile, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would I be happy to guest post on this website even if I didn’t get a backlink?”. If the answer is no, then it’s likely to be a poor fit for your brand.
Moreover, a methodical digital PR approach will often result in more than just a backlink. A well thought-out content partnership could lead to your content partner genuinely wanting to share the article on their social media channels, giving your brand even greater visibility. Social media shares are highly valuable when it comes to generating brand awareness – it’s not just about the backlink.
4. Have a well thought-out outreach template
Whether you’re reaching out to publications to publish a guest post or to acquire a link on a brand mention, outreach can be a lengthy process. Oftentimes you’ll need to reach out to as many as 100 websites in order to get five backlinks on brand mentions.
Having a template ready for any kind of situation will save you a lot of valuable time in the outreach process. An ideal outreach template should be short, straight to the point, and, of course, shouldn’t sound robotic or impersonal.
When designing a template, keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your contact with too much information too early on. Your first email should be simple. Once you’ve made initial contact, you can then follow up with more detail.
5. Always personalise your emails
While using a template for your email will save you time, personalising the subject line and the body of the email will get you a much better response rate. Keep in mind that the majority of people you’re reaching out to have an inbox full of spam emails. The last thing you want is for your outreach to get lost in a pile of emails they’ll never respond to.
At the very least, the best practice is to include the name of the publication in the subject line and use the first name of your contact in the body of the email. When collecting contact emails to build your outreach list, make sure to also collect the full name and job title of the contact. That will allow you to adapt your message to whoever you’re speaking to.
Moreover, adjusting your email’s tone of voice to suit the industry you’re targeting will prevent your email from sounding out of context. You wouldn’t use the same pitch for an Instagram influencer as a financial publication, so it makes sense to fine-tune your outreach template to suit your audience.
6. The follow-up email makes a huge difference (and so does a phone call!)
Relating to the previous point, don’t underestimate how full your contact’s inbox is. Following up a couple of days after your first email will help you cut through the noise and set you apart from spam emails.
And don’t underestimate the power of a phone call when it comes to digital PR. Pitching guest posts and discussing content partnerships can be a very lengthy process. Picking up the phone can speed up the process and minimise the amount of back and forth emails, so don’t be shy about doing so.
It can be a lot easier to confirm the expectations of both parties over the phone. Just ensure you also send a summary email after your phone call to confirm what you have discussed and the agreement you’ve come to.
7. You need to get comfortable answering the question, “What’s the budget for this?”
When asking to publish a guest post or get a link on a brand mention, the one-liner email reply you will get the most is, “What’s the budget for this?” (often followed closely by, “No thanks.”)
This question is especially tricky when the client isn’t working with a budget. In that case, your best shot is to make the editor see the value you’re adding by providing them quality content written by professional copywriters, free of charge.
But even when your client is working with a budget, this question can still be difficult to answer if you haven’t yet seen their Media Kit. By giving them an approximate budget, you run the risk of falling out of line with their expectations. So whether you actually do or don’t have budget, have your answer ready and be prepared to negotiate your way through.
8. It’s a numbers game
As mentioned, the success rate for outreach in general is around 5% – sometimes even lower (fun fact: ours sits at 10%-15%). Outreach is ultimately a numbers game. The more publications you reach out to, the more links you’ll be able to acquire. So don’t be afraid to pitch the same story to several publications at once, as chances are you’ll only get one interested party.
If a publication gets back to you after the article has already been approved by another, don’t panic – this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Simply let them know that this post has already been claimed and suggest a new topic, or try to approach the same topic from a different angle. The publication is most likely first and foremost interested in partnering with your brand and will be pretty flexible on the topic of the article.
9. Tracking spreadsheets are your new best friends
Let’s say you’re pitching five different stories and reaching out to 10 publications for each story. That’s already 50 conversations you need to keep tabs on, as well as remembering to follow up once every few days. Add an agency environment into the mix and now you’re repeating this process for 4 – 5 clients each month, meaning you’re juggling a lot of balls in the air.
This is where a tracking spreadsheet (your new best friend) comes in. The ideal tracking spreadsheet will have:
- Your contacts’ information (email, name, job title)
- How many times you’ve followed up with them
- The status of the outreach (in discussion, declined, confirmed, guest post in production, awaiting publishing, etc.)
- If an investment is required, and if so, how much
- The date of the last time you’ve spoken with them
Digital PR will without a doubt test your problem-solving skills, but at least your tracking spreadsheets will give you instant visibility on where all of your projects are sitting.
10. Stick to a schedule and know when to move on
This might be the trickiest part of digital PR. Because it’s a lengthy process – and because you’re often dealing with unresponsive partners – you can get stuck at the back-and-forth stage of emails for a long time before you actually follow through with the project.
However, your digital PR strategy should be integrated into the monthly goals of your SEO campaign. Therefore we recommend defining a clear deadline by which you must hear back from the content partner, and ruthlessly move on when that deadline isn’t met. Otherwise, the delivery date will continue to be pushed back indefinitely and it’ll be increasingly difficult to hit your goals.
(Out)reach for the stars
While digital PR can seem like a tricky business, it’s essential to driving brand awareness and building an authoritative link profile. With solid research, some great content ideas and a careful selection of content partners, guest posts can steadily become a great way to share amazing content with relevant audiences and add to your brand’s legitimacy.
Digital PR puts your organisation, problem-solving and time management skills to the test – but whatever happens, stay focused, stay positive, and keep reaching out. It’ll be worth it. If you need some help improving your SEO, link building or outreach, get in touch with the team at Yoghurt Digital today!