Get more links from journalists with search data

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  • November 16, 2017
Stephen Kenwright

Stephen Kenwright

Strategy Director

In the last 12 months 91% of the links we placed came from press sites: journalists rather than bloggers.

We love working with bloggers but lots of our clients are in financial services or travel, where blog links often don’t make sense because:

  • Our competitors are getting links from nationals – much more authoritative websites – meaning we have to build higher volumes of links
  • From 2013 Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines started referring to “Your Money or Your Life” websites for sectors like FS, healthcare and legal, which would need to demonstrate a higher degree of “expertise and authority” – we were pretty sure that also applies (or should apply) to the site’s backlink profile, so a financial price comparison website with lots of links from the regulated press > one with lots of links from unregulated bloggers (we’ve definitely proved that to our clients since)
  • In sectors like fashion, TrustFlow, Domain Authority (or whatever you prefer) often aren’t a good proxy for actual authority. Brands thrive on the cutting edge, which is where bloggers in those niches hang out
  • If I can get controversial for a second (and I know I can because I actually said this four years ago): I don’t care about how relevant a linking site is. A link to a travel brand from a massive, all-encompassing website like nytimes.com is going to do more for your search visibility than one from a travel blogger. Relevant stories on big sites will get you more link authority, reach and customers than any kind of story on a relevant site (and again, we keep proving it).

Working with journalists isn’t any easier or harder than working with bloggers, it’s just different. We’ve picked up lots of techniques that contribute to getting more, better links (Laura will share some of these in another BrightonSEO training session in a few months)  – one of my favourites is using search data.

According to the 2015 Edelman Media Forecast (and backed up since), journalists are under increasing pressure to write stories that will get shared on social media – often they’re set traffic-based KPIs. Search data gives us the opportunity to prove stories we’re pitching are in the public’s interest right from the first contact.

Google Trends

Let’s start with the most obvious: Google Trends shows us what the public are searching for in real time. You can break this down by country or city and prove just how interesting your story is to local journalists. For example, the Welsh are nearly twice as festive as people from Northern Ireland if we’re basing that on the popularity of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.

This data can be used to back up your stories or help you to come up with them: here’s a link to branded3.com from OK! Magazine Carrie built using some Google Trends data around Love Island. The story is right for their audience and there’s proof of that fact – and it’s right for us because it’s a comment on what’s going on in search. It’s literally explained in that article that this is why we’re linked to.

You can supercharge this data using the Google Trends Datastore, which is populated with analysis of trending stories from Google’s own News Lab, though not much of the data is UK-specific right now.

Google trends datastore

Keyword research and ranking data

If feeling the pressure to drive traffic to their articles wasn’t enough, journalists are increasingly time-poor too. If we can do the leg work in justifying the story we’re much more likely to get covered. When we’re creating content for our clients’ blogs we’ll usually justify that with keyword search volumes and brief our writers with keywords to include in the copy…but we’re expecting journalists to guess what they might want to rank for (or do their own research).

Please don’t ask a journalist to include keywords because there’s almost no chance they’ll work with you if you do – but insight into the general interest levels of the story you’re pitching can be helpful.

…and in the same way we’re forecasting for our clients we can help our contacts to understand the likelihood that they’ll actually rank for those keywords:

  • Are there publications of a similar authority already on the first page? Google wants diversity in its search results, so if a competitor of the publication you’re working with is ranking then there’s a good chance that the new article could replace it
  • Are the articles already ranking old or new? Is freshness likely to be a factor in that SERP? If so, a new article will probably replace an old one
  • Can you commit to driving traffic or even links to the article? Many businesses still operate a press centre (don’t call it a link scheme – and remember, reciprocal is a dirty word).

It should be pretty obvious that you don’t give out keywords you want to rank for to journalists – the last thing your client needs is another national competing with it – but press websites are a good opportunity to occupy some real top of the funnel terms that are maybe only partially relevant to your product.

Ultimately there are lots of tactics that can improve your success rate…but right now when we think of link building with search data most of us immediately reach for (admittedly awesome) tools like Buzzsumo and analyse which would be the best sites to link to us like we’re building a fantasy football team – I think that time could be better spent analysing how we can make journalists’ jobs easier and actually get the links built.

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