How Press Requests Can Be A Link Building Gold Mine

Building genuinely powerful and authoritative links isn’t easy. Sure, there are tons of ways to build links, but how many of these techniques actually enable you to gain real editorial mentions from top tier websites?

The answer: not many.

Press Request Link Building

Getting a link from a leading publication within your industry can’t even be compared to something like a link from a directory, even if that directory is DMOZ. That’s because editorial links from industry-relevant publications hold so much more value than just the link equity. Such benefits include social media exposure, brand awareness, targeted referral traffic and, ultimately, direct conversion potential (to name a few).

What I’m going to talk about within this article isn’t necessarily a new technique, but it will go into detail on the approach I take to get results from press request link building (in a way that can be scaled). I’ll show you the tools that I use, the techniques that I’ve refined over the years and how to make the best use of your time for maximum results.

What Are Press Requests?

If you haven’t used press request services before, then you’re really missing out. In a nutshell, they are platforms that allow journalists to connect with brands, bloggers and agencies in order to get input into their upcoming articles.

This could be in the shape of a simple comment on a topic, an extra reading resource, a review product or a full article. There are all sorts of ways that they’re used, but more importantly, they’re used by major publications all over the world.

I even use them when I’m searching for input into some of my articles if I’m looking for a giveaway prize on some of my other blogs (here’s an example).

There are tons of different services that you can use, but here are a few for you to check out. They’re a mixture of paid and free services:

Getting Organised

Once you’ve signed up to a few of these services, you’ll soon start to realise the sheer amount of emails you will receive from journalists each day. On average, I receive around 200, and I only use a couple of these services.

If you’re not organised, then you’ll end up missing opportunities.

Another thing worth mentioning at this stage is that time really is of the essence. Most journalists will want quick input on their requests — we’re talking hours, not days here — so you need a process in place for responding to requests.

If you’ve got a whole PR team at your disposal then this becomes a lot easier as you can have different people watching out for different topics at different times of the day. This is the ideal situation. I’m not going to presume that everyone has this though, so for the purposes of this article, I’ll assume that you’re just an individual with no other resources.

Here’s how I set my emails up:

  1. Create separate folders within your inbox for each of the different services you use (i.e., ResponseSource, HARO, Muck Rack, etc.).
  2. Create rules for any new emails from each of these services to go into their allocated folders.
  3. Create sub-folders underneath each main folder that are broken down into different topics. For example, I have folders marked as Small Business, SEO, Social Media, Blogging, etc.
  4. Once you’ve created these sub-folders, create rules on any of the emails that include keywords related to each topic to be filed under the relevant sub-folder. For example, any request mentioning SEO will go into my SEO sub-folder. I also exclude any emails from going into the folders that mention competitions or review products (this avoids me getting irrelevant requests). This may not be the case for you, though.
  5. The final thing that I do is create rules on any of the emails from these services that will flag an email that comes through from a publication that I’m targeting. In my case, I have alerts for any PR requests that come through from Forbes, The Guardian, The Financial Times and a few others.

This will only take around 15 minutes to configure, and it will seriously increase your effectiveness at both identifying potential PR opportunities and being able to respond to them.

Useful: Check out these guides on how to set up email rules within Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.

Taking it a Step Further

Building on mail alerts, I take this a little further for really important requests that I want to ensure I can respond to. This part I do through using IFTTT (If This Then That).

If you’re anything like me, you don’t end up spending a lot of time behind your desk. I’m usually on the move a lot throughout the week, so staying on top of PR requests can be tricky to say the least — even when I’ve got all my email folders sorted out.

Using IFTTT, I get an SMS sent to my cell phone whenever I receive an email from HARO requesting input on an article focused around SEO. You can use the recipe I created here to get this set up quickly.

My IFTTT recipe

I’ve also added a draft email response template into my iPhone/iPad notes so that when I receive the SMS, I can quickly check the email, replace a few fields in my response template and get it sent over to the journalist as quickly as possible. Perfect for when I’m on the move!

How To Respond To Requests

Once you’ve got everything set up so that you can respond as quickly as possible, you need to know how best to respond to requests. I’ve been responding to requests for several years now and have refined my process a lot over this time.

Each week, I’ll get between 3-4 editorial mentions from PR requests from about 2 hours of my time. Considering that these mentions have come from the likes of Forbes, TechRadar and Yahoo, that’s not a bad ROI.

My mention within TechRadar

Here are some pointers for responding to journalists:

  • Do not phone them unless they specifically stated they wanted to be called. This is a huge bugbear of many journalists (just check out Alice Troung’s response in this article from BuzzSumo).
  • Use the name of the service they contacted you through within the email subject, along with the topic of their request. For example, “HARO: Comments on article surrounding the fracking industry”.
  • Don’t mention links at all (you can do this at a later stage).
  • Open the email with a small intro as to who you are (about two sentences).
  • Give them what they want within the first email. If they want comments for their article, don’t just send them an email saying you can get them; actually send them over in the first email (I usually send over 4/5 bullet points).
  • Make sure that you send over content that can easily be plugged into their article with as little editing as possible (if it doesn’t quite fit then it could be a lost opportunity).
  • Add in clear contact details to get back in touch with you, along with your social profiles.
  • If you’re responding via Twitter, be sure to give them your email to get in touch directly or offer to DM them details.

In terms of timing, I always respond as quickly as possible. This should be balanced out with the time it will take to deliver a good, quality response — there’s no point responding really quickly with a crappy contribution.

If it’s the case that they’re requesting something fairly lengthy, email them back as quickly as possible to let them know when you’ll be able to get your contribution over and a brief overview of what it will look like.

My Email Template

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working on my email response template over the past few years. Earlier this year, I posted up a template that I was using (within my link building techniques of 2014 article). I’ve now adapted this template further and here’s the most updated version:

###

Subject: ResponseSource: [Insert the subject that the reporter has asked you to comment on]

###

Body: Hi [First Name],

My name is [Your name], [Your job title and company]. I saw your request for input into your recent article via [Service name (i.e. HARO)] and thought I’d be able to help you out.

Here are my answers to your questions:

  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.
  • One or two sentences (max) with a comment related directly to the reporter’s question.

If you need anything else then just let me know via email or by phoning me (details below).

[Your name, company and job title]

[Your Twitter/LinkedIn URL]

[Contact phone number/email address]

###

This is just a template to work from, and you’ll need to personalise it to fit your business; but this is a good starting point and has always worked well for me.

Making Sure You Get A Link

This is the part that a lot of people get wrong. As I mentioned before, don’t just jump in and start requesting links in your first email. Wait until you’ve actually had some feedback from the journalist that’s made the request before you even begin to think about bringing the topic up.

My general approach is to wait until my input has been accepted and we’ve had a couple of emails to make sure the wording is correct, etc. Once this has been done, I’ll drop them an email to ask if they could let me know when the article goes live by sending me the URL. I’ll also just mention that if they need to reference me as a source, then they can use the following website. Here’s an example:

Hey Sophie,

Thanks for getting back to me. I’m excited to see the finished article when it goes live.

Do you think you could send me the URL over when it gets published? That way I can share it across my social media channels.

Also, if you need to reference me as a source, you can use my personal website, http://www.matthewbarby.com.

If you need any input in the future, then feel free to get in touch with me directly.

Thanks,

Matt.

You can see in the example above that I’ve been really subtle about the link request – nothing too pushy; plus, I’ve also given the journalist a reason to get back in touch with me, which could help to further build rapport and line up some more PR opportunities in the future.

If you don’t get a link, don’t worry. I wouldn’t keep harassing the journalist about it because sometimes it’s out of their hands. The way you need to look at it is that you’ve just helped someone out from a publication relevant to your business. There’s a lot more potential in the future for brand exposure, links, traffic and social activity that can be had.

Long-Term Relationship Building

All links aside, press requests are an amazing way to build relationships with journalists and editors of publications that are typically very tough to get hold of.

I will often respond to requests that I have no knowledge about that simply point the journalist in the direction of someone that may be able to help them. This has been a tactic that I’ve used for a few years now and off the back of these quick emails, I’ve developed some really valuable relationships that have had a direct benefit within some of my campaigns later down the line.

For me, the real gold comes from building relationships with freelance journalists.

Freelance journalists will write for a number of different publications at once, so having a good relationship with them can actually result in developing inroads to a number of key publications – bear that in mind when you are considering whether it’s worth helping a journalist out without the benefit of a link. If you work within an agency and have a number of different clients that span multiple industries, the benefit here is huge.

Just remember to keep the relationship going. I will set up RSS feeds to feed through any new articles written by each journalist I’ve engaged with so that I can comment on their content and share it via social media. Additionally, I’ll sometimes bounce new content ideas off of them to get some input on whether they think it will go down well, etc. This is then a perfect way to follow up with them once it goes live and potentially get an editorial mention or a social share.

The key thing to remember is that the relationship must be mutually beneficial. Don’t just contact them when you want something. If you find something useful that is relevant to what they write about, send it over to them. If you read one of their new articles, let them know what you liked and share it across social media.

This will get you much further than a single link — trust me.

TL;DR

  • Get your press request emails organised and use IFTTT to get SMS alerts for important requests whilst you’re on the go.
  • Make sure that you respond to requests as quickly as possible, but in a way that doesn’t compromise the quality of your response.
  • Check out my email response template and personalise it for yourself.
  • Build relationships with journalists that are mutually beneficial and keep them going.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To | How To: Links | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column

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About The Author: is a digital marketing consultant from the UK and oversees digital strategy at Wyatt International. He shares valuable information and strategies related to SEO, social media, content marketing and branding within his digital marketing blog. Alongside this, Matt blogs at Find My Blog Way and is a lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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