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Influencers, Outreach, and Earned Media




Andy Crestodina: Welcome, everybody. You have all joined in for the live version of the SEMrush Influencers webinar.

Thank you all for joining us. I'm very confident this is going to be high value because we have a great guest. Welcome, Gini.

Gini Dietrich: Hi, Andy.

Andy Crestodina: Gini Dietrich is the founder of spinsucks.com. A lot of you I'm sure have already heard of Gini or been exposed to her content. She's also the founder of a PR firm called Arment Dietrich, which is kind of a place where she has applied a lot of the things that we'll be talking about today.

We have an important, valuable topic. I'm very excited about this topic because influencer marketing can mean a lot of things. One of the aspects of it is when the influencer is a journalist or an editor or the gatekeeper for a huge super-targeted very valuable audience, also known as digital PR.

How do you get a lead? You get two things. First, you get qualified visitors, that's called traffic and you convert them from the website or from the landing page. That's called a conversion. Traffic times that conversion rate equals demand. How do you get traffic? Three main sources: search, social and email, which is the most powerful, durable, consistent source of qualified visitors.

Search; so we're talking about rankings. How do you rank? Two main ranking factors, authority, and relevance as in links and content, which brings us to one of the most important questions in all of digital marketing, why do people link to things?

Earned media introduction

Gini's going to unlock some secrets here. It has a lot to do with relationships and networking and outreach, also often known as PR, also often known as earned media.

Here's how I think of it. Blogger A writes two articles. Blogger B writes two articles but pitches one to another website, media site, a publication, a blog. That yellow page is an off-site page and also they get a collaborator contributor to write for their site, so Blogger B has more content. They both wrote two articles, but Blogger B has a link back to their site from the author bio, if not in the editorial, and they've got more content associated with their brand.

Round two; Blogger B has six pieces of content associated with the brand, two links. They're building a little network of friends and fans. This is the difference between blogging and collaborative content marketing, between blogging and digital PR, between blogging and outreach, earned media pitching. Does everyone do this? It's a common tactic, right? Not that common. 40% of bloggers never do guest posts.

Yep, never, but does it correlate with strong results? Absolutely. The more frequently you write guest blog posts, the more likely you are to say that you get strong results from your content. This is a screenshot of all of the articles I've written in 2018. One in four of my articles was a guest post, including my last guest post, which was for your site Gini.

I'm going to ask some questions to Gini and you are all welcome to join in at any time.

PR and Link Building

Andy Crestodina: There's a lot of SEOs in this community. SEOs understand the value of links, as do you, as do I and how that is a key factor, key search ranking factor. What is the difference between digital PR and SEO link building and outreach or is there one?

Gini Dietrich: I don't think there is a difference. I think that the biggest difference is not in the outreach or the different disciplines. The biggest difference is that SEOs tend not to be afraid to ask for the link and PR people won't do it.

Andy Crestodina: That's it. They won't do it.

PR people have so many of the skills required to do great SEO.

Gini Dietrich: Yes, and they're really great at building relationships. You would think that communicators would be able to do that, and they're great at getting stories and contributing content and guest blogging and interviews and features and all that kind of stuff but when it comes down to getting a link to something on their site, they will not do it. SEOs tend to be really, really good at that, so if we could have a nice marriage of the two, we do really well.

Andy Crestodina: So, if there's one thing that PRs can learn from SEOs; the value of links. Some of my problems with the way that people do link building in the SEO community is that they don't know that those basic skills of the communicator, of the earned media pro.

You have a very popular blog so you get pitches all the time, do you see a lot of those people doing outreach trying to take a shortcut and just saying, “link to me”. We talked about this with Peg last month.

The Poor Impact of Cold Emails

It seems the SEOs rush it. They send these cold emails asking for a lot.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, it's definitely a cold email. Somewhere along the line, that advice was given, and now everybody does it. I'm willing to bet we get between 30 and 50 of those emails every day. It would be two people's full-time job if we just follow it up with those and included links.

What we will do from a from a blog perspective, a content perspective, if you've built a relationship, we know that you read our content, you share our content, you have built relationships with us, you participate in our community in Slack. There are lots of things that you can do, but you've built a relationship, then yeah, we would be super happy to do it.

That's the biggest challenge I see is now, everybody is doing it, and so you're competing with, and we're probably mid-size so if you're doing it with larger publications or larger blogs, you might be competing with hundreds of SEOs. Going back to what communicators do really well, which is building the relationship and building the opportunity, you might be able to send 10 (emails) and get nine of them to respond versus sending 100 and getting no response.

Andy Crestodina: I want to follow up quickly on what you just said in that, and there's an important thing for SEOs to understand here is, first of all, the volume of requests that land in these editors' inboxes, dozens. You just said 30 to 50 on your blog, which is a popular blog, but imagine a media publication. I think these editors get hundreds a day.

Gini Dietrich: Not only that, but the editors aren't the ones who have, especially from a blog perspective, the byline. You have to actually go to the digital web manager. You have to actually do your research.

Andy Crestodina: Cold email asking for links I think is a ridiculous tactic. I guess it's robots who send a lot of these emails so maybe if they get a super low response rate, it's still effective, but warm them up. Make friends with me first a little, like write a comment or share something of mine or follow back or interact with me a little bit first, right? A PR pro would never send a cold email asking for a big featured article.

Gini Dietrich: No. Well, I wouldn't say never because there's some that do it, but yeah, to your point, there are robots that are doing some of it and maybe the low response rate is worth it but if there's something that's really valuable, and it is a high domain authority site, like the New York Times, I mean, I think their domain authority is 100. If it's somebody like that, it's worth your time to do your research, build the relationship, provide value, and then ask.

Andy Crestodina: I think the link builder psychology is more like hit and run. The PR communications expert is thinking more about the long term.

Evaluating Sites to Guest Post on

So we're kind of touching on one of the first questions here, which is how do you evaluate sites for their possible guest post value? Then they say the obvious, which is, of course, looking at the authority, the page authority, the domain authority. In other words, estimating the value of a link to your site, is that the only or best way to estimate the value of earned media?

Gini Dietrich: I would say domain authority is the starting point for sure. I also would look at what kinds of traffic they've sent to you, and that's always really eye-opening. Then you look at the pure data and discover that it's kind of crap, like okay, so we got a really high domain authority site linking to us. You try to balance all of it but I mean, if you don't already have a link, then I would say domain authority is a great starting point.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, I think it's a good one. I think also it's easy to forget who the readers are. Do those people care? I sort of feel like this is maybe too strong a statement, but anything that you do purely for the value of the link is more likely to be spam. You should be thinking at least somewhat about humans, someone's going to read it that cares. Is there going to be a long-term relationship or would I get referral traffic?

Google I think is smart about that too, right?. If I get a link from Rock and Dirt Magazine, does that help me? There is, by the way, such a thing as Rock and Dirt Magazine.

Andy Crestodina: I think a lot of SEOs have that understanding of how Google works, that there are families of key phrases and networks of sites, and then a link from a site that's in your neighborhood would be even more valuable, so they say. Let's take audience questions first. What types of content is most likely to be linked back to?

The Type of Content People Link to

Gini Dietrich: Content that pushes further into a topic or business services. It can't be to advertise-y or too salesy, because usually the editor will not go for it and you want it to be relevant enough that it is driving referral traffic. You always want it to be something really specific that digs deeper into the topic or the content and gets you something out of it.

I mean if it's driving somebody to a blog post for instance, and the call to action on that blog post is to subscribe, and then you have this nice referral traffic and you get a bump on your subscriptions, great, but just having it go to the homepage or to your services page doesn't really help you.

Andy Crestodina: One of the things I think about with this question is the power of original research. Research is one of the very special formats of content that is, it's almost unethical to not link back to it. If there's original research that supports that article, people are more likely to include it and link to it because it's a citation. It's a bibliography.

Research, original research, if you could conduct original research and publish that on your site, making your site the primary source, and then yeah, no one's going to remove that link. Also, sometimes visuals, I've been doing this thing where I include visuals in my guest posts or in contributions and put the image source Link, this is sneaky of me, I'm doing image source link Building. I might have made that up.

Gini Dietrich: One of the things that you've done for a really long time that I adopted from you, which I think is really smart, is when you're doing interviews or roundups, you always have anchor text and a link to some piece of content on your site in your answer. I saw you do that several years ago and I was like, that's freaking brilliant.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, if you can get yourself positioned as enough of an influencer to be included in someone else's content, you're writing for someone else's website. If you can include an image from something else you've written, you've got a chance to do an image source link, you can also just refer to something else you've written. The way that I triple down on that tactic is I have a list of the articles that almost rank high.

When someone asks me to contribute to something, I look at that list and think if I can find a way to incorporate any of those things in my contribution, so deliberately building keyword focused anchor text links.

We're getting another question here. Pitch question for you. What are the top three don'ts when pitching a blog aside from cold pitching?

Gini Dietrich: Don't send it in the middle of the night. Don't send it to dear blogger. Make sure that you're spelling the person's name correctly if you actually use their name because people butcher my name all the time, which just tells me they haven't taken care because it's G-I-N-I. It's not G-I-N-A. It's not G-I-G-I.

Then number three, I would say don't copy and paste your request and send the same thing. I mean there's some value in doing some shortcuts and things like that so you're not typing out every single email but try to customize at least the introduction to show you've done some research and understand who it is that you're pitching.

Andy Crestodina: Let's take another question. How important is relevance in optimizing guest posts? Writing keyword focus or optimized guest post? Interesting.

Gini Dietrich: Very important, super important, really important, how many adjectives can I use? Yeah, yes, I would absolutely every time try to do that every single time.

Andy Crestodina: The editors are going to love you.

Gini Dietrich: Yes, and that's what we teach all of our clients but again, PR people are scared to do it.

Target the phrase, make it an awesome article, right? There are famous case studies of this. I think Moz published The Beginner's Guide to SEO. I don't think they wrote that. I think someone wrote that for them like as a gift, and he's gotten crazy visibility from that for years.

Gini Dietrich: One of the things that you did several years ago, probably four years ago is you did keyword optimized content for The Guardian. I didn't even know The Guardian took content, but here's Andy Crestodina. I mean, really Andy, The Guardian?

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, I was briefly like a contributor to The Guardian. I don't remember, I didn't follow up on that well enough. That would have been a great place to keep writing for. It's an amazing publication.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, but the same thing like you definitely practice what you preach.

Andy Crestodina: Question: “Some sites are very broad with content and others very focused. Mine is a portrait photography website. Should I only accept photography guest posts?” Interesting.

Gini Dietrich: I hate this answer but I think it depends. I would probably broaden it slightly if it's something that will bring value to your audience so not necessarily just photo guest post, but things that are ancillary, and I'm not an expert so I can't speak to it.

Even photo printing or frames, so it's definitely related but it may be is not the core.

Is Social Media Essential for Digital PR?

Andy Crestodina: Gini, you are known for being a community building pro and a social media expert, influencer, author, is it possible to do earned media, digital PR without social media?

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, I mean, I suppose it is possible. I don't know that you'd want to, but because social definitely helps extend and build networks in places that you don't already have access but yeah, I guess you could. I mean, we certainly did before. It was just a lot harder and took a lot longer.

Andy Crestodina: Could you do successful outreach to a journalist without having first touched them on social media or without having a credible looking LinkedIn profile? How does social media play a part?

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, I mean I think you could. It would definitely be harder. Social media makes it significantly easier. I mean I'll give you a great example. In the 1900s, when I was starting my career.

I traveled a ton because I did a lot of event marketing earlier in my career and I also subscribed to all the magazines that were relevant to our clients and I would come back from trips, and there would be huge stacks of magazines in my office just waiting for me. That's how you built relationships is you would actually read the magazines and newspapers and figure out who it was you should be pitching and then you actually picked up the phone and you called them.

That's how you did it, so yeah, you can do it without, but social makes it significantly easier and so does the web because now you don't have to have the stacks of magazines. You can just go to the internet to figure out where they are, and where they're hanging out and do it that way.

Saying that you can't do your job without social I think is click-baity, because you can. It's just harder. I think that's what social does is for sure, makes it significantly easier. You can follow an editor or a blogger on Twitter really easily and begin conversations that way. You can follow them on Instagram. There are lots of ways that you can do it without being too stalkery.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. Well, something you just mentioned relates to the next question. Phone calls, how much more effective is it when you include some kind of offline component, face to face or phone calls or coffee or lunch or beer?

Gini Dietrich: We've been testing that all year this year, just to see. People don't answer their phones. If they don't know the number, they don't answer. You can leave a very nice message. They don't call you back. Texting works. The other thing that we've been testing is video emails. It's a quick message from us that goes into the email to whomever, the editor, the blogger, and that's pretty effective, but the phone calls, I mean, we've been trying all year, and it's just unless they're expecting a phone call from you, they don't answer.

Andy Crestodina: That last one is a great tip, and that's one of the big predictions for 2019 is that we will be, that the people who are the best at this, whatever channel, whatever networking, or communications or earned media or sales or whatever, leaving video, recording tiny video messages.

Gini Dietrich: If you use Vidyard, which I think is free, I haven't had to pay for it yet, it goes right into your email. You just click the button, you open an email to compose it, you click the button, you record it, done.

Andy Crestodina: Yep, these are like Chrome plugins now. I think Wistia has one and Vidyard has one.

Gini Dietrich: I've also been using Loom.

Andy Crestodina: If you're working really hard on an email, and you push the keyboard away, click to turn on your camera and stop typing and start talking. It's just a way better channel for trust. It's the next best thing to being there, and they can pass it along.

Gini Dietrich: You get an alert when they've watched the video.

Andy Crestodina: Oh, sneaky, good data on it.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, so you know, and you know that they pass it along too because it will show you how many views.

Things Editors Look For in Guest Post Pitches

Andy Crestodina: Let's take the next one (question). “I'm on the receiving end of offers to guest post for your own properties and brands, what are some qualifiers or things that you look for when deciding on who to partner with on content?” You're an editor, criteria for deciding what guest post to accept.

Gini Dietrich: It must be very relevant, I mean, going back to your content marketing mission statement, does it fit your audience? Does it fit within our content mission statement so that it provides real value to the readership that we've built and the community that we've built?

Andy Crestodina: Does it matter to you if the person has a large social following? Is that an extra factor for you?

Gini Dietrich: Not for us. I know it is for some publications. Lots of publications, especially the nationals are, those editors, reporters are incentivized by page views. They want to know if you're pitching and your competition's pitching, and you have a better social following than your competition does, they're going to go with you because they want to know that you're going to help them get page views, but for us, it's not a factor.

Andy Crestodina: I mean, everyone who's doing guest posting should Google themselves. What do you see? Could you improve that? Do social profiles rank high? Could you improve them? Does your bio page from the company's website rank high? Can you improve it? If you're doing this kind of outreach, anybody doing any kind of earned media, I highly recommend to do it, in my experience people rarely do, Google yourself.

How many earned media, this is one, how many earned media editors do you typically focus on at any given time? I don't know how to answer that. Well, how would you answer that?

Gini Dietrich: Again, it depends, which is a crappy answer but it really does depend. If this is what your full-time job is, you can probably do four to six at a time but if it's not your full-time job, or you're running a business or you're part of a team that's doing it, then four a month. It's not one a week. It's not something that because you're going to be building relationships and doing research and providing value and maybe even taking Aaron's approach to create something really valuable to that publication or blog, so it takes time.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, I like that. I think influencer marketing software would have you manage ongoing relationships in that reach with like 20 or 50 influencers.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, and you really, I mean, to your point earlier, you really want to build that relationship so that it's ongoing so it's not just a quick hit that you actually continue to get the valuable link and that you continue to get content and that you're continuing that relationship and it's a long-term play, versus just those quick hits, the hit and run as you call it.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, if you're trying to make friends, you don't choose 50 people and try to make friends with 50 people. You're just not going to be very effective at that. You're probably choosing a much smaller, more focused group, lower volume, higher value. I think that's one of the differences, the classic SEO is really like a spray and pray but the PR pro is really reading carefully, getting to know this person, what are they doing.

So, if you have these relationships then, if these people move around, and I'm thinking now about networking. Editors don't necessarily stay in the same place. How long and how durable are these relationships?

Gini Dietrich: Well, let's just say I have many relationships that I've had since the beginning of my career. I've maintained those relationships for a really, really, really long time. In fact, I just had a conversation earlier this week with the producer of Mr. Food. I've known him since I was 25 years old. You just keep in touch, and you find, for the business that we have today, it's not a relationship that is going to provide any value for us or for our clients but you never know. He may go somewhere else and I have that relationship.

Andy Crestodina: Why don't you answer the next question and I'll be right back?

Getting Started with Earned Media Outreach

Gini Dietrich: Okay. “What steps do you recommend to get started if you're just at the beginning?” Really great question. I would start by creating a list of 12 to 15 publications, blogs, news outlets, whatever it happens to be, trade publications. I would aim for one a month, so do 12 and create that list and then just pick them off every month, month one you're going to do TechCrunch and month two, you're going to do whatever it happens to be.

What did you say you were doing? You said a quarter of your content this year was guests.

Andy Crestodina: I wrote like 25, 26 articles and eight of them were guest posts. I mean, it's like habit and you don't stop doing effective habits. It doesn't matter how many visitors I have or how large my network is.  

Why would I ever miss the chance if someone asked me to if I can find the time? Although I'll say this, I've avoided the temptation to be a contributor, a regular contributor to publications. I'm currently a contributor to the American Marketing Association magazine, but it's only four articles a year, but Fortune and like these big publications, they want it to have you like every week or something like that. I don't see that as being the best value.

Gini Dietrich: I agree with that. It depends on your business goals, but yeah, for your business, I would agree with that.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. Okay, I'm going to show you now this SEMrush trick. I'll share my screen and show you how I'm using SEMrush to find the best answers to the best questions to answer on Quora. Some other SEMrush webinar taught me this.

Okay, so I'm at SEMrush. I put in quora.com. Quora ranks for 29 million keywords. I created a filter for the words earned media and another filter to show me only the phrases for which that rank on page one or page two in Google. You should do this. Quora ranks number six for earned media value when you go to Google and try to confirm that.

I understand. of course, there are lots of implicit search signals that are affecting my search results here. There it is, how to measure earned media value.

The clickthrough rate to this page would be a hundred a month, I'm sure. Could you write, there are only eight answers. The top one has only nine upvotes. Could you write the best answer on the question about earned media value specifically? Gini, write it. I'm going to upvote you, within I don't know, this time next week, you will basically rank for the phrase earned media value. Sneaky, right?

Gini Dietrich: I love that.

Andy Crestodina: What steps do you recommend to get started if you're at the beginning?

Gini Dietrich: I just did that.

Andy Crestodina: Oh you did? Okay never mind. I'm embarrassed I'll say this and I wasn't paying attention. I apologize.

Gini Dietrich: You were pulling up the SEO stuff.

Andy Crestodina: My quick answer, if you want to get accepted as a guest blogger on other sites, you should have at least one amazing article written somewhere that that editor can find, like a great piece for Medium or for LinkedIn or even if you have no platform, write something great somewhere where if they look, they can refer back to like oh, this person's pretty awesome. I don't use Mention, what do you think of Mention as a PR tracking tool?

Gini Dietrich: You know I haven't used it in years and from what I understand, it's evolved since I last used it but I can't honestly give a good evaluation of it.

Andy Crestodina: What do you use?

Gini Dietrich: We use a combination. We use Talkwalker alerts combined with Sprinklr I think. I'm pretty far removed from that stuff these days

Andy Crestodina: The host of this webinar has a feature that you can use for brand mentions. A lot of this Talkwalker alerts is one I learned from you. That's a free tool and it seems to work pretty well.

Yeah, what I like about the SEMrush and similar tools is that the mentions are you can see the domain score or domain rating or domain authority in the report, which is kind of fun.

Gini Dietrich: Brand24.

Andy Crestodina: Brand24, yep. Okay, cool. That's PR tracking. I wanted to ask you this. What do people ask you about most often?

Gini Dietrich: Right now, I would say it's how do I make money in my business?

Andy Crestodina: You're getting big questions. This was a great hour. I wish we had more time.

Gini Dietrich: It's always fun to hang out with you and I've gotten to see you three times in a week.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. If you have questions, you are welcome to find us online. I'd love to connect with all of you on LinkedIn. Again, you can find Gini at spinsucks.com where her community and her content live.

Andy Crestodina: Bye guys.

Gini Dietrich: Bye.

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