The Web Marketer’s Guide to Landing Press – Online PR
I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's top internet marketing expert. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.
Ryan Stewart // @ryanwashere
SEO isn't dying. It's evolving.
Each Google update requires us to adjust our methods. If you take a giant step back, SEO less like “SEO”, and more like online PR.
Think about it. What do you need to rank a website?
- A clean, fast loading, user friendly website
- A strong online brand (co-citation mentions, branded searches, etc)
- An online buzz (social media and links from authority websites)
Number's 2 and 3 are online PR in a nutshell.
This is bad news to SEOs because we're notoriously shitty at PR.
Part of the reason we're bad is the lack of proven information available. If you search for "online PR" guides and strategies, you'll find content written by marketers.
That’s why I put together this guide.
- Part 1: I asked media professionals - journalists, reporters and editors - for their opinion on how land media coverage. Their advice is exclusive to this post!
- Part 2: I put their advice to action and cover 3 proven methods I’ve used to get quality online media coverage.
You can find plenty of round up guides that give "expert" opinions how to land press. Problem is, they're told by PR and marketing "experts", not from media professionals.
So, I went out and found a handful of reporters, journalists and editors to get their advice. To those willing to participate, I asked the following question:
As a media professional, what advice (if any) do you have for businesses that are trying to connect with you in an attempt to gain exposure/coverage?
Business pieces work better as trends. How does your business fit into trend in the marketplace? How does your business fit into climate change or the technology movement, for example? How do you simplify or benefit the life of those to whom you try to sell? The media are not in the business of running ads as editorial but if your pitch makes an editor say, 'I didn't know that,' then you are on the right tract. Perfect example, when Amtrak derailed, I saw a business story about a widget that could slow vehicles down if a human couldn't. that was on trend and information that everyone could use.
Executive Editor, The Miami Times
Make sure your submission is relevant to the audience of the publication you are pitching to. At SEJ, our goal is to share relevant, useful information with our audience, so we look for information that meets their needs. Also, research the editor's name when possible and find out if you have any connections with them. A personalized, well-thought out pitch is more likely to be successful.
Copy Editor, Search Engine Journal
Do your homework. Contact the appropriate person in the news organization for the business or topic you are working with. The top person at a news org is not in charge of routing emails to the appropriate person; he or she is business directing coverage, planning enterprise, dealing with budgets and personnel. No response is usually an answer in itself. If you've figured out the right target for your message, Here's a crazy idea: if you have time, try snail mail. We barely get any anymore.
Managing Editor, Miami Herald Media Company
I find that marketers and business owners often try to shape the news and pitch specific story ideas, rather that simply reaching out to offer their expertise for any future stories I may be working on.
Take a roofing company, for example. Instead of emailing or calling to see if I want to write a story about roofs, reach out with good contact information for the future. That way, when I'm writing a story about an increase in roof collapses due to ice dams, I'll know who to call.
Also, reaching out to editors, rather than reporters, is often wise. Reporters get so caught up in day to day work, they often don't have time to think ahead like the editors planning the news do. They know which reporters are already tied up, and they ultimately decide what stories to pursue.
Patience is also key. Reach out by email, so we can get to it at our convenience. Reporters don't respond to every email, but they do read them. Don't call "to follow up" on the email you sent earlier that day. Often I haven't even read it yet and I'm on deadline for the next day.
Reporter, The Patriot Ledger
Write a Captivating Subject Line: Editors' and journalists' email boxes are overflowing with pitches, making it hard to get noticed unless your subject line is captivating. But it can't merely be catchy or eye-grabbing; it also needs to be descriptive and substantive enough to warrant opening the message. Consider your subject line seriously; without it, the contents of your email might be altogether ignored.
Keep it Short and Sweet: OK - So you've written a superb subject line and have me hooked enough to open your message. Ensure I read it in its entirety by keeping it short, simple, and to-the-point. I'll peruse it for 30 second maximum, so make sure the most important information is easy to find and preferably near the top. Bullet points are also helpful.
Make it Timely: Journalists work on a news cycle; we're always looking for new and timely stories that allow us to write on a fresh angle. Is your pitch tied to a recent trend or news angle? If not, find a way to do so - We're looking for stories relevant to what's happening now.
Director of News & Social Media, Univision
Are you still building links to rank one page for that "money" keyword?
You're making it harder than it needs to be. Take a look around - Google loves to rank authority sites.
Let's look at a quick example for a 27K per month search term, "brown boots".
I’ll be measuring domain authority using the free Moz Bar browser plugin.
Low Page Authority; High Domain Authority
Moderate Page Authority; High Domain Authority
Moderate Page Authority; High Domain Authority
You’ll notice only 1 of the top 3 ranked sites has links pointing to that page, but they all have high DA (Domain Authority).
Domain Authority comes from consistent acquisition of high quality links and social sharing across your entire site. If you build out a wide range of website content you can be creative with how you acquire these links.
You just have to get off your ass and make it happen.
The first SEO client I signed was a Miami based personal chef. This was when buying a handful of blog comments could rank you for insantely competitive terms (i.e. “boner pills”).
Problem was, she was paying me with food (literally). I had no money to buy links; this forced me to be creative.
We came up with the plan to offer free cooking classes out of her colleague’s restaurant kitchen.
After that I found relevant Miami based press sites and sent a simple outreach email. To the right is one of the links we landed (that remains up today).
For the purpose of this post, let’s imagine we’re launching a free cooking class of our own and we’re ready to promote it.
Start by doing a simple Google search:
- Miami cooking classes
- Miami free cooking classes
- Miami couple cooking classes
Only pay attention to results from news sites / blogs / publishers, not service providers. For me, the first result that comes up is an article from The Miami New Times.
1. Click through to the article.
2. Find the author.
3. Find their contact info.
4. If there’s no contact info, perform a Google search for their name.
5. Find their LinkedIn profile.
6. Send a request. If/when they accept, send a quick message:/p>
Never ask for anything in the opening contact. I always send them an open ended, ice breaker-type question to get them to respond. If they do, then ask:
I have infinitely better success when I’m point blank with people. They know you’re a shit hole marketer using them for press – don’t be a shit hole marketer who treats them like they’re stupid.
Be quick, to the point and honest – it goes a long way with reporters!
Hosting an event is by far the easiest way to land press. Thing is, you have to follow through and actually do it.
I strongly recommend you do. Events can do more than press exposure – they help you build a local network, leads and even sales.
If you’ve never run an event before, here’s my quick and dirty guide:
Pick an Event Type
If you run a business, you’re an expert at something. Pick a topic and create a seminar around it. I’ve run a number of events:
- How to manage your online reputation
- Basics of search engine optimization for small business
- Basics of WordPress design for small business
If you’re not comfortable speaking in front of people, host a local networking event:
- Niche specific (i.e. Miami based attorney meet and greet)
- Neighborhood specific (i.e. South Beach businesses meet and greet)
- Young professionals
Pick a Venue
If you've got an office space, use it. If not, find a community co working space, a local park or a bar that would be up to host an event for free. If you're going to bring an influx of customers, they'll rope off a section for you.
Dedicate Space on Your Site
When doing outreach to news outlets you'll need a dedicated page on your website where they can link to.
Most people will add a blog post. I strongly suggest you create a permanent page and re-use or re-purpose it.
For example, if you plan to run 3 events during the course of the year, instead of creating 3 different pages:
Just create one:
If you end up getting a handful of high authority links, it’s better to direct them to 1 URL. All you have to do is update the content as your events lapse (and don’t delete the page...ever!).
Take Out a Cheap Press Release
Back in the day I used to spam the shit out of sites with press release submissions. Now, I use them as proof.
When you perform outreach, reporters want to make sure you're legit. By sending them a URL to your web page and a press release, they'll instantly take you seriously.
Locate Sites to Submit Your Event
Now, time to build some links! You'd be surprised at how many high authority news sites actively accept and post event submissions.
The easiest way to to find them is using Google search operators (replace your city with Miami):
- Miami events
- Miami events calendar
- Miami url:event inurl:submit
- Miami inurl:event inurl:add
- Miami "submit" "event"
- Miami "add" "event"
That's more than enough to get you started. In about 4 minutes of searching “Miami events” I found 3 DA 60+ websites that accept submissions.
Sack up and host an event - the link equity you gain will be well worth your time!
In traditional resource page link building you seek out the resource page.
My method is the opposite - you become the resource page.
We created a page on our site that provided a long list of resources for Miami based businesses. Places to eat lunch, best coffee, best networking events - anything we could think of.
When you're a website that provides resources, you become a resource for other sites. Does that make sense?
Basically the conversation goes from:
"Hey I see you have a page on your website Miami listing resources, here's our home page."
"Hey I see that your website is about Miami. Here's a link to an entire catalog of helpful links for Miami businesses."
Do you see the distinction?
Creating the content was the hardest part. From there, I just had to spend a few hours poking around the internet to find likely targets. I performed Google a number of searches:
- Miami blogs
- Miami newspapers
- Miami media channels
- Miami resources
I clicked through on a number of sites and collected contact information in a spreadsheet. I then sent out the
I noticed that you often write about [something in Miami].
I just wanted to let you know I put together an all inclusive list of resources for Miami based businesses.
You can check it out here: http://webris.org/miami-business-resources/
Wrapping it Up
Press is hard to come by. Reporters are constantly hounded with irrelevant requests from pushy business owners.
However, if you listen to what they’re looking for, they’re not only willing to work with you, they want to.
It’s hard work, but the outcome is well worth it.
SEO isn’t dying. It’s evolving. Each Google update requires us to adjust our methods. If you take a giant step back, SEO less like “SEO”, and more like online PR. Think about it. What do you need to rank a website?