Viewing all posts by Jon Ball.

A 3-step outreach strategy for (new) SEO content creators

Jon Ball shares a 3-step process for content promotion for new SEO copywritersPublishing content is thrilling, exciting, and a little nerve wracking. There’s a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and even perhaps, vulnerability.

Creating content can be a very revealing process – we share our thoughts, opinions, abilities and general self. At its core it’s a very unfiltered process. But content creation is no time to be shy – the goal of creating anything is ultimately to share that creation with the world.

That’s why outreach is so extremely vital to content creation, and ultimately intertwined with publication. Because if it’s worth the effort of publishing, it’s certainly worth sharing – which can be unfortunately under-emphasized when creative individuals first start creating great content.

Whether it’s a fear of asking, a certain shyness, or the belief that good content will naturally be shared, there’s a multitude of reasons creators don’t outreach to others after publication.

But I implore you – if you’re creating content, you should be spending a healthy amount of time outreaching that same content, asking for feedback, a social share, or even a link.

There are ways to outreach tactfully and respectfully, which can help you garner important industry relationships and contacts. So, to help propel you down the path of content advocate, here’s an outreach checklist after content publication.

1) Defining an Audience – Who Should You Contact?

Outreach is the antithesis of shyness. It’s better to create a large list and whittle it down, if need be, than to create but a handful of contacts.

Before you can even begin to start an outreach campaign based around soon to publish or recently published content, you need to define who your audience is, who will be interested in your content, and who will merely be receptive.

Although who you reach out to is always influenced by your content, as a general rule of thumb you should be contacting:

  • Anyone involved or participating in the content (such as an interview, for example)
  • Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content
  • Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past
  • Influencers within the industry
  • Prior relationships within your industry (the earlier the better – think feedback)
  • Anyone you wish to build a relationship with.

Creating a list based upon these factors should give you a doozy of a list for potential outreach – especially if it’s content worth sharing.

From here, it’s time to be realistic. Outreach should always be finely targeted initially to a core group of those most likely to be receptive. Targeted outreach to kick off an outreach campaign is an extremely underrated leveraging tool.

The goal is to land the most likely big name prospects to start with. If you can name drop a few influencers, experts, or general big industry names within the rest of your outreach you’ve guaranteed yourself a higher response rate.

Beyond even that, those initial successes can create a sharing circle that may well hit potential outreach targets before you do – thereby giving your outreach further credence.

If and when you’ve received a positive response from your targeted list it’s time to move on to less likely targets – those who probably aren’t as interested in your content, but might be influenced to care by industry names conveniently included in your outreach.

The priority should look something like:

influencers/experts likely to respond>prior relationships>those involved or participating>similar content associations>influencers/experts not likely to respond>anyone mentioned, associated, or affected>potential relationships.

The concept is to build as much authority as possible as you move down the list. This increases the odds that those you contact, as they become less relevant or likely to care, won’t be annoyed at the general intrudance, but in fact be grateful for being included in your outreach process since other important people were also included and responded.

Social proof should never be underestimated.

2) Creating an organized outreach list

Although ideally done before or during the content creation, if you haven’t yet formed a list of outreach contacts you’ll absolutely want to assemble one prior to starting the actual outreach, after you’ve defined your audience.

There’s a variety of tools that can help form and manage an outreach list, including:

Google documents is completely free, with Excel being free if already installed (or you have MS Office). Buzzstream and Raven both scale based upon pricing plans.

Personally, I’ve found that unless the project is fairly large I can get by with Google docs just fine. It’s simple, shareable, and easy to use and manipulate. Pretty much everything I need from an ordered list of outreach contacts. Google docs is a great place for beginners to start.

Organization of the list can boil down to personal preference – do you want a thorough list with a multitude of layers of information, or a minimalistic list to keep it easy to read and quick to navigate?

Here’s what a typical outreach list looks like when I’m building a Google doc outreach form:

First Outreach List Example

 

I started with the result, to ensure maximum visibility and scanability. After that comes the name of the contact, their email, social media, website, our relationship, and three attempts at outreach – the third switching to social media.

This should keep the list well organized as you move through your outreach, but minimalistic enough to ensure ease of use.

Note as well that I froze the first row, so that as I scrolled down through the contacts I was able to keep the identifying information on top (and bolded).

Here’s a screenshot showing how to do so:

Outreach freeze row

 

 

The result, name of contact, email, social media and relationship should all be pretty self explanatory.

Those unfamiliar with outreach might wonder why three outreach attempts. Three is important because:

  • Any more and you run the risk of becoming annoying and/or flagged as spam
  • The first should be personalized, explain the point of the email succinctly, and have a call to action.
  • The second outreach attempt should be a simple follow up, two or three sentences max, attached to the first email, with another short call to action – ie “Emailed you on (date) and wanted to check in that you saw it. Are you interested?”
  • The third outreach attempt will be a switch to social media – again a short notification and call to action.

If you’re only going to attempt a single outreach, you’re better off not wasting your time outreaching – your response rate is bound to be dismal. People are inundated with email and information overload anymore. Your goal should be to contact them in a useful, brief, informative manner without causing further annoyance.

Three is few enough to typically fall short of annoying, while maximizing the chance of them reading, engaging, and responding.

The switch to social media on the third attempt will also help with email fatigue, while offering forward the social proof of your identity (assuming your social media presence is established).

3) The Outreach Process

This has been covered brilliantly a few times, most recently by Stephany Beadell of SEER and Richard Marriott of Clambr, both of which I strongly recommend you read.

To boil down their – along with quite a few other outreach expert’s – advice, here’s what you should know:

  • Be short and to the point, focusing on your message, it’s value, and always ending with a singular call to action.
  • Be human – templates are fine, but your goal for every outreach should be to be as human as possible.
  • Make it easy to respond to – yes or no if possible – and quick to reply.
  • Make sure you’re outreaching to the right people, in a targeted order.
  • Don’t thank someone just for reading your email – although you can and should thank them when and if they do reply, share, or link.
  • Follow up as appropriate – I use a personalized first email, an extremely short follow up email two to three days after the first, and then a final switch to social media if I still haven’t received a response.
  • Don’t get dejected – the online world is fast paced, busy, and noisy. You’ll never have 100% of people respond to your outreach, which means someone important will always slip through the cracks.

Remember, we don’t live on an island. The internet is a fun, crazy, crowded place. You’ll never be noticed if you don’t make some noise yourself. So the next time you’ve created some content worth sharing, and are set to publish, don’t skimp on the outreach campaign. Because without a little elbow grease to get feedback, social shares, and even links, you’ll never get off the ground, nor build any lasting, beneficial relationships.

The internet is no place to be shy.

Recap

After (or before, if possible) publication, you should prepare to outreach by:

1. Define your audience – who’s interested in your content?

a. Anyone involved or participating in the content

b. Anyone mentioned, associated with, or affected by the content

c. Anyone who’s previously participated, created, or associated with similar content in the past

d. Influencers within the industry

e. Prior relationships within your industry

f. Anyone you wish to build a relationship with

2. Create a usable, organized outreach list

a. There are a variety of tools, but beginners might want to start with Google docs

3. The outreach process

a. Be short and to the point, with a singular call to action

b. Be human and respectful

c. Begin with a targeted audience, who you can later cite as social proof

d. Follow up as appropriate, and quick to respond

e. Don’t get dejected – you’ll never get a 100% response rate

 

About the AuthorJon Ball

Jon Ball is VP of Business Development for Page One Power. Jon specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building strategies for clients across the globe. In his previous life he was a professional portrait photographer, and still passionately pursues photography. Page One Power is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy and transparency.

 

Save 25% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training through September 30th! Use coupon code SEPTEMBER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 (easy) ways to transform your content from meh into memorable

Guest author Jon Ball shares 6+ ways to transform content from ok to fantastic!The internet revolves around content. Communities, friendships, enemies, audiences, traffic, links, exposure – much of it comes directly from the quality of the content you’re able to produce.

So, if you’re looking to start a brand new blog, add a little zing to your content, or simply understand the basic rules of creating for the internet, read on.

First, a word – all content lives and dies based around added value. If you can’t find a way to add value within your content, you’re not going to see the results you want.

So, without further ado, here are six easy ways to beef up your content.

 

1) Include Research

Did you know that as of 2010, we are creating as much information every two days via the internet as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003? (Techcrunch)

Take a moment and think about that. Seriously – from the dawn of time until 2003. That’s a lot of information. In 2010 we were creating that much every two days. Two days!

Make sure to involve some research in your content to liven up your material. With the amount of information circulating the web today there’s bound to be some data on any subject for which you’re looking to write copy .

Especially deep dive and dig for data that is:

  • Fresh
  • Unique
  • Timely
  • Surprising
  • Interesting

 

2) Add Personality

The biggest problem most corporate blogs face is a lack of personality. People are afraid to include their own humor, insights, and personal thoughts into their work when creating company content.

While this is understandable, content suffers heavily if personality is withheld. There’s nothing more boring than reading flat content. Inject a little life into it!

One of the best ways to ensure your personality shines through is to share a story in the content. Even a quick snippet injects a wondrous amount of vivaciousness into an otherwise vanilla piece.

 

3) Define the Value

Added value is the best recipe for great content. Create content that continually adds value for your target audience and you’re well on your way to success.

It’s not enough to simply have added value however – you need to define it. First to yourself, and then to your audience.

Start by telling how you’re going to enrich their lives. Explain what the value added is. Explain why the value is important to them.

Here I’d refer to the adage ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’.

If you don’t explain the added value, there’s a chance it will be missed. Especially since at least 90% of readers are actually doing more of a fast scan that actually reading each individual word.

So, save yourself and the reader some time and be upfront about the added value of your content. Your audience’s attention span demands it.

 

4) Use Intelligent (Descriptive) Titles

Intelligent, descriptive titles are an absolute must. With the amount of content being produced online each and every day, readers don’t have time to read a synopsis of each and every piece of content they encounter. They’re going to devote minimal amounts of time (think 5 seconds or less) to scanning titles and deciding whether or not it’s worth clicking on.

80% of readers never make it past the headlines!

There are many ways to optimize headlines, but your number one goal should be to spark interest. With such a low click through rate in online usage, if you don’t capture your reader’s attention you’re wasting your own time.

Good headlines should incite at least two of the following:

  • Interest
  • Curiosity
  • Humor
  • Surprise
  • Controversy

 

Don’t be afraid to aim for the feels and hit them right in the emotions. A good title is provocative, and demands to be read.

And don’t forget the basics – things such as including strong adjectives, direct value, important keywords, numbers, and calls to action.

 

5) Know Your Audience

Never write a single word until you know who it’s for. Personal writing for yourself is okay, just don’t expect people to take a look at it.

Many treat their blog as a sort of online journal, and then are frustrated when no one wants to read it. The world doesn’t revolve around you, nor your company.

So, if getting traffic is an inherent goal of your writing, you better be writing with a specific audience in mind.

Knowing your audience can lead to:

  • Targeted writing
  • Tighter focus
  • Better engagement
  • Actual value (it’s not valuable unless it’s valuable for the people actually reading)
  • Content ideas

 

The short and sweet truth is that if you’re writing without a well-defined audience (often referred to as a persona) then you’re wasting your proverbial breath.

 

6) Format for Readability

Optimizing your content for readability is extremely important on the web. Once again, you need to bear in mind the deluge of information facing the average internet dweller these days. Nothing will keep your writing from being read like a good old-fashioned wall of text.

So, break your writing in easily consumable chunks. Use elements such as:

  • Bulleted/numbered lists
  • Images
  • Charts/graphs
  • Short paragraphs
  • Snappy sentences
  • Videos

 

The internet is no place to wax eloquent – leave the prose where it belongs.

 

7) (Bonus Tip) – Include Links Out!

Often overlooked, don’t be afraid to have outward-bound links. Some site owners are afraid of directing traffic away from their site, but your audience will be much happier if you use links properly – to help support your content.

Supportive links can be the difference between subpar content and truly outstanding, informative content. If there’s a website that will support your message, don’t be afraid to provide a link. The internet being what it is, it’s impossible to give readers the full story in a single piece of content. Links are the perfect solution to this problem, by breaking the story into digestible chunks and allowing each reader to decide when and where to stop.

So don’t be afraid to link out!

 

And Finally – Make it Sharable!

If you’re creating content for the web – whether for personal or professional use – make sure you’re creating content worth reading and worth sharing.

The internet is a portal of information unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and the average readers are responding by lowering their attention span – we see more advertisements, information, videos, headlines and just stuff than ever before. We’re absorbing more than ever before. And, if you can’t deliver meaningful content in mere moments, then odds are you’re speaking primarily to yourself.

So create content worth sharing – hopefully these tips will help you do just that!

 

About the Author ~ Jon Ball

Jon Ball is VP of Business Development for Page One Power. Jon specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building strategies for clients across the globe. In his previous life he was a professional portrait photographer, and still passionately pursues photography. Page One Power is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy and transparency.

You can connect with Jon on Twitter at @pageonepower.

photo thanks to *brilho-de-conta

Learn how to write content that both readers and search engines love! Sign up for my SEO Copywriting Certification training today.

 

 

 

Real link building requires sales

Want to build links? Jon Ball advises you to put your sales hat onThere are a lot of buzzwords right now in SEO such as ‘link earning’, ‘inbound marketing’, and ‘relationship building’. But the truth is, successful link building requires sales.

The simple fact is that if you’re going to spend time creating quality and linkable content, you need to spend an equal amount of time outreaching that content – which is really just a form of sales. Basically, you’re selling the concept of the content and pushing for a specific result – further sharing.

There’s an internal movement in the SEO industry to rebrand from a technical field to a marketing sub-department. I support this in part—it’s a natural fit, and increases the power of SEO—but I believe the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. Specifically, I’m talking about link building.

With the release of Penguin (and more recently, Penguin 2.0), Google has changed the face of link building. No more can SEOs go out and build 100 quick links and expect to see positive results. Now, links need to be authoritative, editorial, and more than anything relevant.

Many SEOs struggle with this new link building, and are afraid to aggressively pursue links.

And that fear is a good thing. We shouldn’t be building links like they were built in the past. We need to keep in mind Google’s guidelines, because if recent years have taught us anything, it’s that eventually punishment will come.

But that doesn’t mean link building should be left behind.

Baldy said, link earning is too passive. Building content and authority and hoping for links is a result of trying not to anger the Google gods, and it’s erring too far to the left. ‘Link earning’ leaves too much to chance, too much to hope. Creating great content deserves promotion, in the form of sales as well as marketing.

So, if you’re really trying to get some serious link building done, put on your sales hat.

Marketing vs. Sales

Inbound marketing can earn links. Unfortunately, it’s a spray and pray approach. Instead of targeting your efforts, you create great content and market it to a large audience hoping something sticks to the wall.

Link building is sales. You’re vetting a specific target audience, approaching them on a one-on-one basis, and working to acquire a link. You’re actively working for each specific link.

Although there are no guarantees, link building as a strategy will produce far more results for 99% of sites over inbound marketing.

That other 1%? They’re the sites that have established authority, credibility, popularity, and have a large amount of eyeballs on everything they do. Something that doesn’t happen overnight. Or even a year. Just ask Rand Fishkin how long it took to grow SEOmoz (now Moz) into an inbound titan.

A quote from his AMA on Inbound.org earlier this year:

“We had to flee an office space we were renting at one point, because we couldn’t afford to pay the next month’s rent. Matt (Inman, who was the first real programmer we hired) and I traded off who was taking paychecks home a few times (that sucked). Gillian didn’t take a paycheck from ~2001 to ~2006.”

You can’t help but to admire Fishkin’s bootstrapped success. But will his business model work for everyone? I’m not so sure.

Real Link Building is Sales

The very essence of link building is sales – we’re basically selling our website, directly or indirectly, to other webmasters. We’re convincing them that the site is worth sharing with their audience, and that their audience will appreciate the link.

Indirect sales can work if you’ve already built trust, brand, content, and popularity. Which means, of course, that the majority of sites on the web have to rely on direct sales if they really want to build links.

A direct sale within link building looks something like this:

  1. Consistent creation of quality content
  2. Marketing to the public
  3. Pursuing leads
  4. One on one outreach to a specific site/webmaster (warm lead)
  5. Selling both the site and content (product)
  6. *Negotiating the link (sale)
  7. Closing the sale (link acquired)
  8. Nurturing the relationship

*Please note, I absolutely don’t mean paying for a link. Negotiating a link can take a variety of forms – including the placement, anchor text, specific page, content exchange, interview, etc., etc.

That’s what real link building looks like. As much as it would be nice if you could simply stop at step number 2 – marketing your content to the public – and see the links roll in, sadly that’s very very rarely the case.

Instead, let’s take a look at a real example of link building.

Link Building in the Real World

First, let’s take a look at a common example, a guest post.

For the sake of contrariness, let’s say you’re starting from scratch, with no contacts and a relatively fresh website.

Of course, you’ve spent time making a great website that’s useful, user friendly, and an overall betterment to the web (right?). Now you want to share it with the world, drive traffic and build great links. In order to do so, you’ve decided to contribute across your industry and build links in the form of guest posting.

Here are the steps you’d take:

1)  Compile a list of target sites you’d like to contribute to and receive a link from

  • Make sure they’re relevant to your industry
  • Make sure they have the authority and traffic to justify time investment
  • Make sure they’re open to communication and contribution

 

2)  Begin the outreach process. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Social media engagement
  • Commenting on their blog or community websites they’re also contributing to
  • Directly emailing (don’t forget to follow up if at first you don’t receive a reply)
  • Web form (try and avoid this – web forms receive terrible response rates)

 

3)  Build trust

It’s not enough to simply outreach – you need to establish trust. Often this takes the form of honest communication and thoughtful interaction. Ask an intelligent question, praise their website, find common ground.

4)  Negotiate a link

Once you’ve introduced yourself and (hopefully) had some positive interaction, it’s time to negotiate the link. Ask appropriately, based upon your previous interactions. In the case of guest posting, mention that you have an idea for an article and if they’d be interested in seeing it and sharing with their audience.

While discussing article details such as content, length, angle, etc., don’t forget to mention that you’d like a link back to your site in the post. Communicating clearly and up front prevents any ill feelings down the line and gives you the power to negotiate up front. Will they give you a link in content? A branded link in the bio?

5)  Deliver and Close

Once you’ve negotiated make sure you deliver in a timely manner. Closing the sale and securing the link is more than just simply emailing over the article. Ask for feedback. When will it be posted? Promote it through your social media channels. Thank them for their time and the opportunity.

6)  Follow up

Finally, don’t get a link and disappear. Nurture the relationship; drop them an email from time to time commenting on the industry, their site, your shared interests, etc. Often the next link opportunity comes through the contacts you’ve already made.

Characteristics of a Successful Sales/Link builder

I’ve employed a few successful link builders in my time, and I’ve found that it truly helps to share a core set of personality characteristics with salesman (salespeople?), which help them thrive in the link building world.

A few characteristics I always look for when the time comes to hire, outside of technical knowledge:

  • Natural charisma
  • Optimism
  • High energy level
  • Naturally friendly/open personality
  • Social intelligence
  • Problem solving
  • Persuasiveness
  • Determination
  • Competitiveness

All these traits definitely have value in the link building world. They’ll help empower link builders to pursue their job successfully, and make them resilient to a harsh reality faced by both sales and link builders – rejection.

Link building is a hard pursuit, and can be a rather thankless job. Having the built in drive to succeed and secure links is very similar to the desire to close a sale.

Recap

At the end of the day, link building requires sales – or at least a close approximation to it. Simply marketing your content isn’t enough. Real link building requires dedicated members going out, finding targets, and outreaching in a personal one-on-one environment.

The process is already naturally parallel to a sales position, so don’t forget to look for key sales characteristics when finding professional link builders.

What do you think? Is there anything I missed? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 

About the Author ~ Jon Ball

Jon Ball is VP of Business Development for Page One Power. Jon specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building strategies for clients across the globe. In his previous life he was a professional portrait photographer, and still passionately pursues photography. Page One Power is a link building firm that focuses on relevancy and transparency.

You can connect with Jon on Twitter at @pageonepower.

photo thanks to Denise Krebs (mrsdkrebs)

Save 15% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training – just use coupon code SIZZLE. The coupon code is valid through Sunday, July 7th. Happy 4th of July!