I’m a big fan of HARO (Help A Reporter Out). I wrote a guide on it on here, and since then I’ve written a guide to repurposing HARO requests over on State of Digital. This is a follow-up to the latter – a quick, head-slappingly, can’t-believe-I-didn’t-think-of-it-sooner follow-up tip.
To be fair, the entirety of this blog post can be summed up in the following six words: record your efforts in a spreadsheet. There you go – you can go now. …Although if you want to keep my ‘average time on site’ stats nice n’ healthy in my Google Analytics, then do please feel free to read on.
The problem with HARO is that it’s very much fast-paced. You get three emails a day – which is overwhelming enough as it is – and then when you find a good potential request, you have a deadline, which is sometimes (although rarely) up to a week or so, although more often than not it’s only a day or two. If you’re answering it yourself (e.g. I do SEO and freelancing ones on behalf of this blog and my own business) then you need to think of something good to say within that timeframe, too. If your client has to answer it (e.g. I like the client to respond – s/he is the expert in their industry, after all – rather than ghost-writing it for them) then not only do they also have to think of something good to say, but they have to do it in time, which can sometimes be a real challenge. Finally you get something sendable, send it across, and that’s it. WHEW. And relax.
The problem with this? There’s very much a ‘send it and forget it’ mentality about the whole thing. Once it’s done it’s done. If it gets picked up then that’s great; if it doesn’t then never mind.
Yesterday evening I spoke at Social Shorts Cymru, an event run by CIPR Wales (the Chartered Institute of Public Relations) that was held at Golley Slater’s Cardiff office. You can see CIPR Wales’ past and future events here.
The full talk title was: PRs make damn good link builders – Integrating SEO into PR campaigns. I explained that PRs have the ability to create campaigns that boost their clients’ SEO efforts as well as helping them to get brand mentions in the press and across the Web. Creating certain types of campaigns may increase the chances of getting links, but given the press’ reluctance to link out, there are certain ways that you go about it.
Here are the slides, which I’ve uploaded onto Speaker Deck instead of SlideShare, as the latter destroyed the formatting of the slide deck’s text for some reason. (Please note: As you can’t click on the links in the below slide deck, here’s a link to the deck as a PDF, where the hyperlinks – such as the list of ‘Handy tools’ near the end – will work.)
I have a few more speaking and webinar gigs in the pipeline, which I’m looking forward to – you can see some confirmed talks on my Speaking page. If you’d like me to speak at your event then please get in touch!
Over the past few years, SEO and PR have become more and more entwined. Links from good, high quality websites are important for SEO, and PR can really help to get those links, especially in the form of press mentions. I often say to clients that they should treat the likes of the BBC and the Guardian as the ‘holy grail’ of link building – getting links from sites like those can be like SEO gold-dust.
While SEOs have become more PR-savvy, we haven’t necessarily seen the same thing with PRs becoming more SEO-savvy. When I worked for Confused.com way back in 2010, I worked with some great colleagues in the PR team who truly ‘got’ SEO (shout-out to @KellysDavies and @PRVix!), and I was excited to see how other PR folk would progress in a similar way over the years – but to be honest, I’ve personally not seen as much movement as I’d hoped or expected… Econsultancy have written a few articles about the phenomenon over the years, who – even as recently as a year ago – are still seeing the same thing.
So if I were to give one bit of crucial advice to PRs who want to help their clients’ SEO with their PR efforts, it is this: when coming up with a campaign, try to create something that people (and the press) have no choice but to link to.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “But that’s obvious!”
…Not necessarily though. I’ve seen some PR campaigns that do not seem to keep this in consideration, as I will explain in more detail (while providing an example to the contrary) below…
The notoriousness of the press
The problem with press websites is that some of the major press websites are notorious for avoiding linking out if they can help it. I worked at Confused.com – whose name is a URL itself, for goodness sake – and they still wouldn’t get linked. Herearesomerecentexamples. And while some speculate that brand name ‘citations’ (i.e. non-hyperlinking mentions) may still hold some SEO weight, it can’t be that much – and even so, for businesses that have a commonly-used name (e.g. “Horizon Solutions”), it may be difficult for Google to ascertain whether the citation refers to the Horizon Solutions in the UK, the Horizon Solutions in the US, or the Horizon Solutions in Canada, for example…
A few months ago, I finally signed up to HARO (Help A Reporter Out), after hearing good things about it (e.g. it’s listed in Jon Cooper’s mighty Link Building Tactics post) and getting a glimpse into how it worked during my last agency role (the marketing manager was signed up to it and used to pass SEO-themed requests onto me).
For those of you who aren’t already aware of HARO, it works like this: basically reporters sign up to it and submit request for comments and opinions from experts (more info here). For example, someone from an employment blog may be writing an article on the most embarrassing faux pas recruiters have ever seen on a CV, and they’d like half a dozen recruiters to chip in with their comments. Those who are successful get their comment published in the article, getting a mention and (sometimes) a link, resulting in brand exposure, potential social media exposure (if it’s tweeted, etc.) and – of course – a boost in SEO. So if you’re a freelancer or an agency, you can administer the process between the reporters and your clients (a bit like guest blogging – just replace “guest bloggers” with “reporters”)!
* EDIT: The author of the “bad press” link above – Bill Hartzer – has left a comment at the bottom of this post elaborating on what happened…
Oh and obvious disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with HARO. In fact, I nearly gave up on it (until I finally started to see results for clients). So there we go.
Don’t be put off by the emails…
When you first sign up to HARO, it can be a little overwhelming and even make you think that it’s a little… spammy (even though you yourself signed up to it). You get three emails a day (morning, afternoon and evening in US time) and sometimes they can be looong…
My advice is to login and change your preferences so that instead of being sent the ‘Master HARO’ list (i.e. everything), you tailor it to only receive the stuff that you’d like to receive.
I only get ‘Business & Finance,’ ‘General’, ‘High Tech’ and ‘UK’ – I currently don’t have any clients in the travel industry, so it doesn’t make sense to receive any ‘Travel’ requests. There tends to be overlap (i.e. a request appearing in two or more sections, e.g. if it’s general and also UK-specific), so don’t worry too much that you’re missing out if you restrict it (if in doubt, keep a few boxes ticked rather than just one or two).
Depending on your industry, it can be cracking…
One of my clients is a recruitment agency. The amount of job/recruitment-related requests that come through HARO is almost ridiculous. It. Is. Incredible. I end up sending them a few a week, and sometimes more than one a day.
While Andrew tweeted like a madman (this tweet sums it up well!), I made a ton of notes, equalling 1,000 words – good fun on an iPad, let me tell you…!
Anyway, here are my top 10 takeaways from the event:
1. Bing: Social is a “strong signal” for content Talk:Panel – Ask the Engines with Pierre Far, Dave Coplin, Martin McDonald, Rishi Lakhani & Tony Goldstone
Straight from the horse’s mouth – Bing’s Director of Search Dave Coplin explained that social is used as a ranking signal in Bing. He even specified that they definitely take Facebook and Twitter into account, and those whose efforts are “bloody good” will be rewarded with better rankings.
2. ISO DateTime gives search engines context to dates Talk:Microformats & SEO – Glenn Jones, @glennjones
I’m still fairly new to the head-scratching-inducing world of schema.org and rich snippets, but I thought it was cool that “ISO DateTime” can give context to dates that search engines will understand. With so many ways to write a date (17th Apr 2012, 17/04/12, 2012-04-17, and so on), it can be used to clarify a date in one standard format. It can even be used when a date isn’t actually written, but a date is still suggested (e.g. “next Tuesday”).
Glenn’s slides can be found here. See slide 17 for more info.
3. What info to include when reporting on online PR Talk:How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites – Lexi Mills, @leximills
Lexi’s talk was by far my favourite at the event. In terms of reporting on online PR efforts, one should consider including:
Domain Authority of the site (not PageRank of the page: the article/content will be brand new on the site – as a brand new page – and therefore PageRank will be low (n/a) for that page to begin with, so for that reason, DA is a more sensible metric to use),
Whether the link is dofollow or nofollow,
Whether the link is an image or text,
The anchor text of the link.
I think the same easily applies to guest blogging as well.
Another gem from Lexi. Keep an eye on the above hashtags for an opportunity to strike.
My tip: Want to filter it by industry? Add a keyword after each one, e.g. #journorequest fashion. You could have one (or a few) per client/site.
5. Tell clients their month-average ranking as well as/instead of their current ranking Talk:Maximizing your SEO Agencies – James Owen, @jamesoSEO
It’s happened to all of us… When we give our client their end-of-month report, they’ve performed consistently well all month, and then Sod’s Law strikes and on the 29th or 30th they’ll drop a few places. We give them their current rank and they wonder it’s been like that the whole time…
In those situations, it might also be worth including their average ranking over the month, so that you can say “yes, it is nth right now, but look at where it was before…!” Especially handy if it’s a temporary dip.
6. Say “Did I explain that clearly?” instead of “Did that make sense?” or “Did you get that?” Talk:Sell the Sizzle, Not The Search: Tactics for Appeasing Marketing Directors – Chelsea Blacker, @ChelseaBlacker
This is very timely for me. I’ve been meaning to write a post about sales/networking tips for non-sales people, and although Chelsea’s talk was applied to Marketing Directors and others within an organisation, I think it applies to any/all environments involving laymen.
After exploding someone’s head with overly-technical information, I’ll often say something like “do you know what I mean?”, which might leave the listener feeling a little silly (albeit unintentionally). However “did I explain that clearly?” is a softer approach and – chances are – I probably didn’t explain it clearly, so more accurate, too.
For me personally, this has been one of the most valuable takeaways of the event. Thank you Chelsea!
7. Use competitor downtime to your advantage… Talk:Enterprise SEO Titties (was that a typo or the actual title of the event in the end?!) – Tony King, @ToastedTeacake
All’s fair in love, war and search…
We all know that competitors bid on each others’ brand terms using PPC (especially big brands), in an attempt to cheekily pinch each other’s traffic before it reaches the site. But Tony made a very good point – if you notice that one of your main competitors is experiencing website downtime, increase your bids on those terms. That’s the time to strike, offering yourself as a (functioning) alternative to frustrated customers who could use you instead of waiting for their usual port-of-call website to get themselves sorted and fixed…
It’s cheeky as hell (although brilliant, mind you), but hey – they’d probably do it to you, too!
8. Shape your response to emotional highs (and use SEO and PPC accordingly) Talk:SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony – Tim, @JellyfishAgency
Use SEO and PPC together, but for different reasons. As PPC can be turned on and off very quickly and ads can be shown at certain times of the day, it can be used to drive people to a website at a time when they might be feeling an “emotional high,” as Tim put it. Don’t just rely on SEO, when PPC could be used to draw in additional traffic that may be more inclined to read/react/buy compared to usual.
EDIT: Sorry, it was Tim who was speaking, not Craig! Cheers to @JellyfishAgency for clarifying!
9. Author Rank could be swayed by industry Talk:I Believe Authors are the Future – James Carson, @mrjamescarson
James’ talk was interesting – it’s early days for the likes of Author Rank, rel=author, etc., but it’s clear that Google is becoming more and more fixated in this area as time goes on.
James has a theory that in the future, Author Rank could differ by industry. Rather than a well-respected, high-ranking author always ranking well no matter what they publish, Author Rank could be determined by the consistency of what they publish by industry, based on their previous successes. For example, if a famous fashion blogger suddenly blogged about football, it may not necessarily rank well – even if their fashion posts usually do – because it is inconsistent of what they’re known and respected for.
10. Mascots can cause a reaction (but be a distraction) Talk:I appear to have started a sweetshop (and advertising company) – Dom Hodgson, @Thehodge
Dom easily wins the award for the most entertaining talk of the day (as I’m sure fellow attendeanales reading this will agree…)
Dom originally used a mascot – a “f***ing squirrel,” as he so eloquently put it! – on the first design of his sweet shop website. Although they had a lot of social media mentions revolving around said mascot to begin with (“did that squirrel just f***ing wink at me?!”), showing initial promising signs that his(?) inclusion was a good move, they decided to “kill” the squirrel and eventually removed it from the site. Why? Because an eye-tracking test showed that visitors were distracted by the squirrel, and in some cases it might’ve been such a distraction that it was putting some customers off from buying anything.
I found this fascinating. It just goes to show that even if people say something positive via social, it may not actually be a positive for the website or company.
11./Bonus: Advanced Search String Queries for SEO Talk:Word from a Sponsor – Analytics SEO, @analyticsseo
Ok, so I lied – I’ve included an 11th takeaway, as while writing this post, I remembered another good takeaway from one of the sponsors – Analytics SEO – who used their ‘sponsor message’ section to share their list of advanced search string queries for SEO.
So that’s it! That’s some of the words from the 1,000-word tome that’s left me with aching fingertips and a low iPad battery…
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank a few people:
Analytics SEO, who ran the ticket competition and therefore the whole reason I managed to go,
Kelvin (@kelvinnewman), the event’s organiser, for his help and patience with the infamous ‘ticket confusion’ on Thursday,
The man who bought me a shot of sambuca because I apologised for accidentally queue-jumping him at the bar at the afterparty. Alcohol + poor memory (generally) = I’ve forgotten your name, but if you tweet me and remind me then I’ll edit this post and link to you as promised. (And before anyone tries pulling a fast one, I’ll know the name when I see it!),
The magician (@mcrmagic), for blowing my mind to smithereens.
Oh and for anyone reading this who enjoyed the karaoke at the afterparty, I’m the guy who sang the Foo Fighters song. I apologise for the high bits!
EDIT (03/05/12): I thought I’d share this awesome infographic as well…