In this article, I will not cover the benefits of using data for public relations, nor will I go into how as an SEO professional you can use classic PR tactics to get more publicity in the form of mentions and links. Enough has been written on these topics.
Instead, I will delve into a very specific tactic that has been successful for my team again and again over the years: offering your data’s local angle, to local journalists. This data-driven tactic is not limited to companies focused on data; in fact, it can benefit any medium-sized or larger website by getting more mentions and links.
The Often Forgotten Local Publications
While everyone wants to be mentioned and covered by top tier national and global publications, there is an additional layer of publications, the local ones, that share one thing in common: publishing stories for people who live in or care about a specific geographical area.
A local publication could be focusing on a specific city, state, region, or even a small country. While the writers and editors of top tier publications are being pitched national and international stories every day, local publications (still) receive much less attention.
This doesn’t mean they are writing less often. Just as their larger counterparts, they also want to publish compelling stories on a regular basis. In this case, stories that are relevant specifically to their local readers.
Local User Data
If your website is serving users from all parts of the country, or even multiple countries, you probably have access to local user data. Data you may have been ignoring because you didn’t think it had much use. As a website that, for example, sells books, reviews travel destinations or even offers insurance tips, you may have been under the impression that your local user data for different cities is not very relevant.
However, the different trends in people's interests among geographical areas could be of high importance to the right journalists or bloggers. By turning this data into a story that these journalists and bloggers would want to cover, you will increase your presence on their sites.
As a side note, there is no need to worry about not being credited for your data as any credible publication will reference its source when citing statistics from a third party. Otherwise, they would have to take responsibility for the accuracy of that data, and that is not something any credible website would do.
There are Three Simple Ways to Look at Your Local User Data:
- Focusing on the data of a specific area.
- Comparing one local area with another, such as New York City vs. Los Angeles.
- Comparing a specific area with the country’s average. For example, comparing Boston’s data with the US average.
For the last two, the same concepts can also work on a global scale in looking at the data of one country vs. another, or a single country vs. the global average.
While this tactic might remind you of another popular PR trend from recent years (i.e., “offering maps”), here we want to focus specifically on local websites and their unique local angles. Often, you will see that you have interesting insights for more than just one area, making it possible to pitch the same story with a few individual local angles to different local websites.
How to Access Local User Data in Google Analytics
Finding your local user data is much easier than you may think. With every hit, Google Analytics (GA) documents your website’s activity and attributes quite a few different dimensions. These include the traffic source, browser, device type, and many more, including a few geographical dimensions. The main geographical dimensions are city, region (state or area), and country.
To retrieve your local data, you can simply build a custom report, then add a secondary dimension to most standard reports, and choose any of the geographical dimensions.
Or you can simply use segments, which is one of my favorite features that GA offers to all users.
Segments allow you to look at your entire GA data in any narrow view, filtered by any dimension or other rules you apply. This means you can look at all of the data your GA has collected from the eyes of that specific, filtered audience. When applying two segments at the same time, comparing the two areas becomes very easy.
Building Your First City Segment?
Go to any of your GA reports and click “+ Add Segment”, then"+ New Segment". Name the new segment and choose “Conditions”. From there, search for “City” in the dimensions drop down (usually under “Ad Content”), then switch “contains” to “exactly matches”, adding a city such as "New York", and save.
You can then add an additional segment, such as "All Users", for your first comparison.
Google Analytics Segments
Two Examples that Illustrate the Local User Data Tactic:
Here are two actionable examples that show how you can leverage local user data for content creation by asking the right questions:
1. Your website reviews travel destinations in English and are focused on a US audience.
You are considering pitching a journalist from a local publication in Colorado who you have noticed often covers travel. As a travel site owner, you know which destinations are the most popular ones, domestically and internationally; you know where people prefer going in the summer compared to the winter; you know which ski resorts are most in demand; and you even know which time of year people usually begin booking cruises.
By taking the local data you have for Colorado specifically, and comparing it with any other state or with the US average, you may have a story for this local publication.
You probably would not surprise journalists with local ski resort preferences, but you may surprise them with the preference of locals when it comes to traveling to New York City vs. San Francisco.
You may also surprise them with Coloradans’ favorite summer vacation destinations - do they prefer vacationing in Florida or in the Bahamas? Or maybe they have a markedly different preference from another state, or the country when it comes to choosing a destination for their European vacation?
2. Your website offers food recipes in multiple languages and serves people from all around the world.
There are local journalists from Australia who write a lot about Aussies’ food preferences. Do you think you could provide them with stats on Australians compared to the rest of the world?
For example, do Australians like pasta as much as Americans do? And what about allergies and food sensitivities? Can you estimate the percentage of people with gluten intolerance in Australia compared to Europe or the US with your own data set of the most popular recipes?
And what about that one German food blogger from Berlin; can you tell her what is different about the recipe searches on your site for Germans specifically? And the difference in taste preferences among Berlin, Munich, and Freiburg? Perhaps the difference in their favorite beers or deserts?
So How Do I Spot Something “Interesting” For a Local Angle?
Whether your website is about a specific hobby, covers education or tech, or specializes in finance, health, news, shopping, or even weight loss, you should be able to find a local angle for one of your industry’s trends or known facts.
To spot “interesting” local user data, you need to ask the right questions. Begin by looking for current popular trends around the topics you cover, since these will be of the highest interest to journalists and bloggers.
Continue with investigating known facts that perhaps you are able to disprove, or new facts you may reveal. For instance, if a known fact or statistic about Americans is obvious from your data, see if this is the case in every state. It is very possible that there is an exception and this trend is entirely contradicted elsewhere.
Usable Examples from My Experience
As one of the examples from my own experience, when the cryptocurrency market boomed in 2017, we were able to produce numerous stories based on our local user data. People from all over the world expressed interest as Bitcoin's price began to surge.
We wanted to know if there were any geographical areas that expressed significantly more interest in Bitcoin than others. We compared both US states and countries throughout the world.
One successful campaign included the state of Texas, where we found a correlation between very high consumer interest in Bitcoin and the legalization of it in the state. Texas was the first state to release an official statement on Bitcoin and the first state where a Bitcoin-only real estate transaction took place.
Yet another story revealed that the top five countries interested in cryptocurrencies were all Eastern European, and we linked this trend to cheap energy costs that made cryptocurrency mining affordable.
In both cases, we calculated the percentage of users checking the relevant pages against the total page views for each area. We wrote a few separate stories for each based on our findings and pitched them to both local sites and sites that covered cryptocurrency, which resulted in some very good placements.
Then, a story came up entirely by coincidence when we were checking demographics for an advertiser. It made us look for the state with the highest ratio of female investors. Another one was finding the most popular tech stock in every US state, and the correlation with the region’s political views. They all proved to be worth our while.
Angles Are Everything
Finding the ideal angle is often the main challenge of this tactic. Once you have the trends, known facts, and the conclusions your data reveals, list the ideal statistics you would want to find. Then, expand the search by local areas for comparison.
While significant differences in demographics like age and gender often attract a lot of media attention, you can also simply look for what is most popular on your site by geographic region. Review your content, site searches, features, and the items your users buy, or any other KPI goals and custom metrics.
Of course, you can always see what else is out there, but only focus on what has not been covered yet. Look for the areas that stand out; journalists usually prefer the more extreme stats, hopefully with a surprising element.
Once you have spotted the unique data you have for a region, it is time to write your story around it and find the relevant journalists or bloggers who are most likely to cover it.
How to Choose Local Websites and Distribute Your Story
Since there are so many local areas and publications, it only makes sense to start compiling your list of local websites after you have the data in hand and the story ready.
With the data and story complete, you can then do a search to create a list of local websites that might be interested in your story. You will have to dig a little bit, but finding these sites is actually quite simple.
Begin by going through the sites found when searching for ‘%AREA% local newspapers/news/blogs’. For example, ‘Colorado local newspapers’, ‘Seattle local news’, or ‘Florida local blogs’.
Finding Relevant Topics
Continue by searching for relevant topics together with the area’s name on Google News, and try any of the tools you use to spot competitors. Once you have the first relevant website (for example ‘The Denver Post’), find its direct organic competitors. Most of them will be the local websites you’re looking for.
Using SEMrush, you can simply go to Domain Overview> Denverpost.com> Main Organic Competitors to readily discover the same competitive intel.
Denver Post's Organic Competitors
Once you have your full list of potential local websites, it is time to prioritize them before pitching the first one. Here are a few possible things to consider:
- Data's relevancy to the topics usually covered by each website
- Websites' relative traffic volumes
- Audience overlap with your website (relevancy)
- The journalist's authority
- How often the journalist writes
- How the journalist usually credits 3rd party websites
Distributing Your Story
After your list is prioritized, it is time to break it into tiers. You will usually have selected the most important one to three websites you want to offer your story to first, so from there you should decide on the time frames allotted for each website to respond before moving on to the next one.
Not all website editors, journalists or bloggers will respond, and that is exactly why prioritizing the list and deciding how long you can wait for each to do so is critical. If you believe that your story is extremely interesting and you have been able to spot a trend or reveal a fascinating fact for a local area, consider offering exclusivity to the first website (or websites) you pitch.
"Exclusivity" is a very strong enticement for news publications, and often for blogs, too. The fact that they have the potential of revealing something for the very first time, ahead of their competitors, can help in your article receiving much better exposure on their site. It could even be featured on the publication's home page, and through internal communication channels to newsletters, social media, push notifications, and more.
In the end, you don't just want your story to be published. You want as many people as possible to read it and get exposed to the story and your brand. Make sure you choose the most relevant websites and the most relevant journalists, and that you give them enough time to respond as possible.
The possibilities with local user data are almost endless, and I believe that any website can find interesting industry trends if they just dig deep enough. Remember that any nationwide perception can probably be refuted somewhere.
Have you tried creating stories based on local user data so far?
Any other tips of things you can do with data available in GA or SEMrush? Let us know in the comments below.