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Want to Speak at MozCon 2018? Here’s Your Chance – Pitch to Be a Community Speaker!

Posted by Danielle_Launders

MozCon 2018 is nearing and it’s almost time to brush off that microphone. If speaking at MozCon is your dream, then we have the opportunity of a lifetime for you! Pitch us your topic and you may be selected to join us as one of our six community speakers.

What is a community speaker, you ask? MozCon sessions are by invite only, meaning we reach out to select speakers for the majority of our talks. But every year we reserve six 15-minute community speaking slots, where we invite anyone in the SEO community to pitch to present at MozCon. These sessions are both an attendee favorite and a fabulous opportunity to break into the speaking circuit.

Katie Cunningham, one of last year’s community speakers, on stage at MozCon 2017

Interested in pitching your own idea? Read on for everything you need to know:

The details

  • Fill out the community speaker submission form
  • Only one submission per person — make sure to choose the one you’re most passionate about!
  • Pitches must be related to online marketing and for a topic that can be covered in 15 minutes
  • Submissions close on Sunday, April 22nd at 5pm PDT
  • All decisions are final
  • All speakers must adhere to the MozCon Code of Conduct
  • You’ll be required to present in Seattle at MozCon

Ready to pitch your idea?

If you submit a pitch, you’ll hear back from us regardless of your acceptance status.

What you’ll get as a community speaker:

  • 15 minutes on the MozCon stage for a keynote-style presentation, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A
  • A free ticket to MozCon (we can issue a refund or transfer if you have already purchased yours)
  • Four nights of lodging covered by Moz at our partner hotel
  • Reimbursement for your travel — up to $ 500 for domestic and $ 750 for international travel
  • An additional free MozCon ticket for you to give away, plus a code for $ 300 off of one ticket
  • An invitation for you and your significant other to join us for the pre-event speakers dinner

The selection process:

We have an internal committee of Mozzers that review every pitch. In the first phase we review only the topics to ensure that they’re a good fit for our audience. After this first phase, we look at the entirety of the pitch to help us get a comprehensive idea of what to expect from your talk on the MozCon stage.

Want some advice for perfecting your pitch?

  • Keep your pitch focused to online marketing. The more actionable the pitch, the better.
  • Be detailed! We want to know the actual tactics our audience will be learning about. Remember, we receive a ton of pitches, so the more you can explain, the better!
  • Review the topics already being presented — we’re looking for something new to add to the stage.
  • Keep the pitch to under 1200 characters. We’re strict with the word limits — even the best pitches will be disqualified if they don’t abide by the rules.
  • No pitches will be evaluated in advance, so please don’t ask :)
  • Using social media to lobby your pitch won’t help. Instead, put your time and energy into the actual pitch itself!
  • Linking to a previous example of a slide deck or presentation isn’t required, but it does help the committee a ton.

You’ve got this!

This could be you.

If your pitch is selected, the MozCon team will help you along the way. Whether this is your first time on stage or your twentieth, we want this to be your best talk to date. We’re here to answer questions that may come up and to work with you to deliver something you’re truly proud of. Here are just a handful of ways that we’re here to help:

  • Topic refinement
  • Helping with your session title and description
  • Reviewing any session outlines and drafts
  • Providing plenty of tips around best practices — specifically with the MozCon stage in mind
  • Comprehensive show guide
  • Being available to listen to you practice your talk
  • Reviewing your final deck
  • A full stage tour on Sunday to meet our A/V crew, see your presentation on the big screens, and get a feel for the show
  • An amazing 15-person A/V team

Make your pitch to speak at MozCon!

We can’t wait to see what y’all come up with. Best of luck!

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If You’re Attending MozCon 2017, You Should Definitely Pitch to be an Ignite Speaker

Posted by ronell-smith

Are you a good storyteller, able to hold a crowd at rapt attention for minutes at a time? Do you have a story you’re bursting at the seams to share?

Well, ye olde yarn-spinner, a MozCon Ignite talk sounds like just the thing for you.

The five-minute talks have become quite a hit since being introduced in 2015, with talks leaving folks with belly aches from laughter or tears from personal heartache — and everything in between.

If you have an enticing story in you just waiting for an outlet, we’ll supply the audience.

The MozCon 2017 Ignite talks — one of the signature networking events — take place Tuesday, July 18.

Buy your MozCon 2017 ticket!


Why should you care about Ignite talks?

Often called “lightning talks” for their emphasis on brevity, Ignite-style talks are five minutes in length and feature slides that automatically advance.

The short stories can pack a powerful punch, however, as anyone who saw Michael Cottam’s 2016 Ignite talk can attest:

One attendee penned a heartfelt account of how Michael’s talk helped him reprioritize his life — it’s well-worth a good read. Make sure you have a tissue handy.


You can share your story, too, in 2017. There will be 10 speaking slots.

The only rule we have governing stories told during an Ignite talk is that they cannot relate to online marketing or feature anything resembling career advice.

This is your chance to show some personality.

Take a look at the topics covered from 2016:

  • Help! I Can’t Stop Sweating – Hyperhidrosis, by Adam Melson
  • Life Lessons Learned as a Special Needs Parent, by Adrian Vender
  • How Pieces of Paper Can Change Lives, by Anneke Kurt Godlewski
  • Prison and a Girl that Loves Puppies, by Caitlin Boroden
  • Embracing Fear, Potential Failure, and Plain Ol’ Discomfort, by Daisy Quaker
  • A Plane Hacker’s Guide to Cheap *Luxury* Travel, by Ed Fry
  • Embracing Awkward: The Tale of a 5′ 10″ 6th Grader, by Hannah Cooley
  • Hornets, Soba, & Friends: A Race in Japan, by Kevin Smythe
  • Wooly Bits: Exploring the Binary of Yarn, by Lindsay Dayton LaShell
  • Finding Myself in Fiction: LGBTQUIA Stories, by Lisa Hunt
  • Is Your Family Time for Sale? by Michael Cottam
  • How to Start an Underground Restaurant in Your Home, by Nadya Khoja
  • Flood Survival: Lessons from the Streets of ATL, by Sarah Lively
  • How a Cartoon Saved My Life, by Steve Hammer

And, lucky for us all, Geraldine DeRuiter, aka the Everywhereist, will be back as emcee for the third time in as many years.



The deets: How to pitch for an Ignite talk

  • Simply fill out the form below — you’re limited to one submission
  • Talks cannot be about online marketing or career-focused
  • Current MozCon speakers are not able to pitch
  • Previous MozCon Ignite presenters are not eligible
  • Submissions close on Sunday, May 14 at 5pm PDT
  • Selections will be made by early June
  • All presentations are expected to follow the MozCon Code of Conduct
  • You must attend MozCon, July 17–19, and be present Tuesday night in person

If selected, you’ll receive…

  • Five minutes onstage, Tuesday night at McCaw Hall. (The event lasts from 7–10pm.)
  • $ 300 off the regular-priced ticket to MozCon (If you’ve already purchased a ticket, we’ll refund you $ 300 for a regular-priced ticket or $ 100 for an early-bird ticket. Discounts are not offered for super-early-bird tickets.)
  • Help crafting a winning talk
  • Stage tour of the event space between 5–7pm Tuesday night in advance of the event

Unfortunately, we do not cover travel and/or lodging for MozCon Ignite speaking slots.

What makes a great pitch?

  • A story that’s compelling and that can be told in the allotted timeframe
  • Sharing a topic you’re passionate about and able to succinctly share what makes it so great.
  • Follow the guidelines. Yes, the word counts are limited on purpose. (Do not submit links to Google Docs or other resources. Multiple submissions will result in immediate disqualification.)

****Include links to any videos of you speaking publicly.

If you’d like to see what an Ignite-style talk looks like, check out these videos from Ignite Seattle 30.

Most importantly, get to work on submitting that pitch to grace the stage yourself at MozCon 2017.

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A Guide on How to Use XPath and Text Analysis to Pitch Content

Posted by petewailes

In my day-to-day role at Builtvisible, I build tools to break down marketing challenges and simplify tasks. One of the things we as marketers often need to do is pitch content concepts to sites. To make this easier, you want to pitch something on-topic. To do that more effectively, I decided to spend some time creating a process to help in the ideation stage.

In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d show you how that process was created and share it with you all.

Tell me what you write

The first challenge is making sure that your content will be on-topic. The starting point, therefore, needs to be creating a title that relates to the site’s own recent content. Assuming the site has a blog or recent news area, you can use XPath to help with that.

Here we see the main Moz blog page. Lots of posts with titles. If we use Chrome and open up Web Inspector, we see the following:

We can see here the element that corresponds to a single blog post title. Right click and hover over “Copy,” and we can copy the XPath to it.

Now we’re going to need a handy little Chrome plugin called XPath Helper. Once installed, we can open it and paste our XPath into XPath Helper. That’ll highlight the title we copied the path to. In this case, that XPath looks like this:

//*[@id="wrap"]/main[1]/div[1]/article[1]/header/h2/a</pre>

This only selects one title, though. Fortunately, we can modify this to pick up all the titles. That XPath looks like this:

//*[@id="wrap"]/main/div/article/header/h2/a</pre>

By removing the nth selectors (where it says [1]), we can make it select all instances of links in h2 headings in headers in articles. This will create a list of all the titles we need in the results box of XPath helper. Doing that, I got the following…

Recent Moz post titles

  • Digital Strategy Basics: The What, the Why, & the How
  • Should My Landing Page Be SEO-Focused, Conversion-Focused, or Both? – Whiteboard Friday
  • A Different Kind of SEO: 5 Big Challenges One Niche Faces in Google
  • Google’s Rolling Out AMP to the Main SERPs – Are You Prepared?
  • Diagramming the Story of a 1-Star Review
  • Moz Content Gets More Robust with the Addition of Topic Trends
  • Wake Up, SEOs – the NEW New Google is Here
  • 301 Redirects Rules Change: What You Need to Know for SEO
  • Should SEOs and Marketers Continue to Track and Report on Keyword Rankings? – Whiteboard Friday
  • Case Study: How We Created Controversial Content That Earned Hundreds of Links
  • Ranking #0: SEO for Answers
  • The Future of e-Commerce: What if Users Could Skip Your Site?
  • Does Voice Search and/or Conversational Search Change SEO Tactics or Strategy? – Whiteboard Friday
  • Architecting a Unicorn: SEO & IA at Envato (A Podcast by True North)

Doing this for a few pages gave me a handy list of titles. This can then be plugged into a text analysis tool like this one, which lets us see what the posts are about. This is especially useful when we may have lists of hundreds of titles.

Having done this, I got a table of phrases from which I could determine what Moz likes to feature. For example:

Top Two-Word Phrases Occurrences
how to 13
guide to 6
accessibility seo 4
local seo 3
for accessibility 3
in 2016 2
online marketing 2
how google 2
you need 2
future of 2
conversion rates 2
the future 2
seo for 2
long tail 2
301 redirects 2

Assuming that Moz is writing about things people care about, we can look at this and make a few educated guesses. “How,” “guide,” and “you need” sound like phrases around educating how to do specific tasks. “Future of” and “the future” indicates people might be looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. And, of course, “SEO” turns up with various modifiers. A blog post that might resonate with the Moz crowd, then, would be something focused on unpacking a tactic, focused on delivering results, that not many people are yet using.

Who’s writing what?

So we’ve decided we’re going to write a guide about something to do with SEO, focused on enabling SEOs to better address a task. Where do we go from here?

In the course of creating ideas for what became this post (and a few other posts), I started to turn to other sites that I knew the community hung around on, and used the same trick with XPath and content analysis on those areas. (For the sake of completeness, I looked at Inbound, HackerNews, Lobsters, and Twitter.) Things that came up repeatedly included content marketing, {insert type here} content, and phrases around the idea of effective/creative/innovative methods to {insert thing here}.

With this in mind, I had a sit and a think about what I do when I want to pitch something, and how I’ve optimized that process over the years for speed and efficacy. It fit into the types of content Moz seems to like, and what the community at large is talking about at the moment, with a twist that is reasonably unique.

The same data gives a list of people who are interested in and writing about similar stories. This makes it easy to create a list of people to reach out to with regards to research, who you can get to contibute, and who’ll be happy to promote it when it’s live. Needless to say, in a world where content is anything but scarce, that network of people shouting about what you’ve created is going to help you get word out and make the community take more notice of it.

Taking this further

For the moment, and because I’m a developer first, I don’t have much problem with the slightly technical and convoluted nature of this. However, as SEOs, you might want to swap out some of the tools. You could, for example, use Screaming Frog to compile the titles, and people might want to use their own text analysis tools to break down phrases, remove stop words, and other useful things.

If you’ve got any similar processes or any ideas of how you would extend this, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Earning the Link: How to Pitch and Partner with the 5 Publisher Personas

Posted by QuezSays

I stood up from my office chair, stepped behind it and leaned on its back with both hands so I could stare at the email from a new angle. I was silenced by the response of the blogger:

“We’ve had a recent policy change here, and we no longer offer followed links. It’s hurting our reputation and being flagged by Google.”

In that moment, the game changed for me. I’ve received some interesting responses from editors and bloggers about links before, but never as adamant and uninformed as this. I realized that I needed to develop a communication strategy for my emails to publishing partners about links.

The challenge

Content marketing is a great way to amp up the reputation and visibility of your business. This includes well-placed bylines on high-authority sites that cover your market place. From our perspective, it’s completely appropriate to receive an attribution link in return. Creating interesting, authoritative, and valuable content is something my team excels at — that’s not the issue. The issue is working with publishing partners who have preconceived notions about links.

Publishers, bloggers, and editors have a wide range of opinions when it comes to links and how they’re treated by Google. This can create challenges for content creators who want to submit their work to these publishers but are being refused a link back to their site in their author attribution. A variety of people find themselves in this situation — SEOs, content marketing professionals, freelancers, thought leaders, etc.

The fact that people have different opinions on links is not exactly breaking news. My CEO, Eric Enge, does a good job recapping how this nofollow madness came about.

So how do you communicate with publishers in these circumstances in a way that’s credible, respectful, and effective?

After placing roughly 150 pieces of content on a wide range of sites, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to identify someone’s perspective to effectively communicate with them. There are so many myths and misconceptions about links and how Google treats links — you never know what perspective you’ll be dealing with.

This piece will help you quickly identify the perspective at hand, personify it, and from there, help you strategically communicate to give you the best chance of attaining that well-earned attribution link.

Step 1 – Pitch properly

As Rand Fishkin said in his 2012 Whiteboard Friday, “Stop link building and start link earning.” This context is the foundation of all communication with publishing partners.

Practice good pitching etiquette and do your homework researching the site. There are many resources that cover this, so I won’t go in-depth here. However, I will touch on my pitching strategy because I truly believe in its effectiveness.

When I draft all of my pitch emails, I refer to a sticky note stuck to my monitor that outlines the four sequential questions an editor is going to have when they receive my email:

Sticky note.jpg

1. What does this person want?what they want.png

Answer this question in the subject of your email, and in the first sentence. Eric Enge suggests you treat this as your value proposition.

2. Is this credible?

is this credible.png

Ask yourself the question, “What would make my communication more credible in this person’s eyes?”

For example:

  • Name-dropping a big brand that is a part of the collaboration
  • Mentioning an accolade that your writer has earned (e.g. rated top Southern mommy blogger back-to-back years)
  • Highlighting other places the author has been published (e.g. monthly Forbes and USA Today contributor)
  • Mentioning a very specific piece of information that proves you’ve spent a lot of time on their site:
    • “Penny Pens has a lot of tips to share on how to road trip around the Midwest. I think this would complement your travel-heavy July editorial calendar. It would also build nicely off of Christina WritesALot’s piece on Choosing Travel Buddies Wisely.”
  • Speaking directly to their content strategy:
    • “I think that Bobby Beers UCLA Tailgating guide would be a great piece to help promote football ticket sales on your events page.”

Worth noting: If you’re unwilling to do the in-depth research that allows you to speak this way, don’t slapdash this communication. Go another route. “I read your recent article on plants and found it very interesting” doesn’t give you any credibility, and it can even hurt you by coming off as insincere. Emails like that already plague editors.

Don’t believe me? Check out Michael Smart’s article on how we’ve ruined the compliment approach to pitch introductions.

In fact, I’ve even seen software that mimics this approach for marketers that are trying to scale their outreach. The user selects the publication and editor and the software creates an email template that automatically pulls in the title of the last article the editor published. That is how manipulative the email outreach environment has become.

3. Is this valuable?

is this valuable.png

And

4. Will this work?

will this work.png

Ask yourself what details would be worth including here. Is the detail crucial to the communication? Would including it prevent the recipient from misunderstanding your offer or not responding?

For example, when I pitch writers that work for a big brand, sometimes I mention that we’re not interested in giving or receiving any compensation for the contribution I’m offering. I’ve had experiences where the editor sees the name of my Fortune 100 client and immediately thinks that I’m offering a sponsored post. Or they think that my writer wants payment and will immediately write off the opportunity because they don’t have the budget for another writer at that time.

By answering these questions clearly and in this order, I’m helping the editor quickly determine if this is an opportunity that interests them. Assisting editors in being able to make that determination quickly, and prioritizing that over being persuasive, is the best gift you can give them. It shows that you respect their time and will keep the door open for future opportunities. It’s how to begin building trust in a long-term relationship.

Side note: Talking about links during pitching

I generally don’t talk about links with an editor upfront and often wait until they’ve had a chance to see the completed content. First of all, the attribution link is only one of the benefits we’re looking for (reminder: the others are reputation and visibility). It just doesn’t seem fair to talk to the editor about your author attribution before they see the piece. They don’t know you and want to see that you can deliver something valuable and non-promotional first.

It can also come off as unnatural to some editors. Do you really want to risk having your email mistaken for one of the hundreds of spam emails they regularly get promising “high-quality relevant content in exchange for only one dofollowed link!”? Unfortunately, talking about links right away can sometimes trigger an editor to see your content opportunity as low quality.

Step 2 – Earn the link

Once the editor requests your content, work with the writer or content creators until you have something that you’re proud to represent. Ask yourself this question: “Is this link-worthy?” If the answer isn’t a resounding “Heck yeah,” then you won’t have the leverage that you need later on if you end up in a sticky situation (i.e. if you aren’t given a link or you’re given a nofollow link). In those situations, you need to make a powerful request to remedy the situation. Are you willing to make that request for a piece of content your team created half-heartedly? That’s up to you. You need to decide what type of content you want associated with your personal brand.

In short, there are no shortcuts. Earn the editor’s respect and earn the link.

link building vs link earning.png

Step 3 – Write a simple “white-hat SEO” author attribution and submit

For example:

  • Usually no more than two to three sentences
  • Avoid direct-match rich anchor text
  • Link to a page that has high relevance to the author or the content
  • Don’t include more than one to two links

Step 4 – When encountering a nofollow link or missing link, communicate strategically

Once in a blue moon, when you check to see if an article you’ve submitted has been published, you’ll find a nofollow tag or a missing link.

What you SHOULDN’T do in this situation is send an email that justifies or explains why you deserve the link, or why the link is important to you. Don’t make an assumption as to why the link isn’t there. You don’t know what happened.

What you SHOULD do is make a simple request. There is no need for the email to be longer than three sentences:

“Hi Max, thanks for making Sally McWritesALot’s article look so great. It looks like the link in her attribution is nofollowed. Can you remove that nofollow tag?”

The editor’s response will give you hints on how to proceed. Below, I’ve outlined some of the flavors of responses you might get, with a publisher persona associated with each one that will help guide your communication strategy.

Skeptical Sally

skeptical sally.png

  • How to identify:
    • Skeptical Sally might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • I don’t allow follow links on the site in sponsored or guest content. As I’m sure you are aware, it can dramatically damage our Google ranking. I love Andrea’s piece, but can’t risk a portion of the site … this is my full-time job — and one that I love. My Google ranking can affect future business opportunities.
      • We do not allow dofollow links any longer; this is in an effort to abide by SEO best practices for our blog.
  • Skeptical Sally’s perspective:
    • Sees links in general as very risky, especially a link that may be associated with a brand
    • Due to their policy change, she now plans to put a nofollow tag on every outbound link, “just to be safe”
    • Has an immediate skepticism of people asking for links
  • Communication strategy:
    • Move on. It is unlikely that Skeptical Sally will be open to a new perspective about links. If you try to educate her on the issue or talk through it, she may even get offended. Oftentimes, it’s just not worth impacting the relationship. After all, there may be ways to collaborate in the future that don’t involve content links (social media cross-promotion, interviews, etc.). Best to say thanks and move on. You still get the reputation and visibility benefits of the article that was published, but you now know that Sally’s site isn’t one where you can expect fair attribution.

Pseudo-Smart Steve

pseudo smart steve.png

  • How to identify:
    • Pseudo-Smart Steve might respond with something like this (real examples I’ve received):
      • The [client] link is just to [client] and will appear spammy to Google. Big red flag.”
      • Other language to look out for — any mention of “PageRank sculpting” or “retaining link juice”
  • Pseudo-Smart Steve’s perspective:
    • Has absorbed some SEO advice from outdated or unreliable sources
    • Knows that links are important, and wants to cash in on the best way to use them on his site
    • May attempt some type of “page sculpting” strategy to prevent precious PageRank from leaking off of his domain (note that this notion is a myth)
  • Communication strategy:
    • Make an attempt to educate these people, standing shoulder to shoulder with them. Sometimes they are just doing the best they can with the knowledge that they have and are open to new information.
      • For example, if the editor responds, “We prefer to nofollow as it retains the link juice,” then perhaps there is an opportunity to send them a link to a resource that will explain that the PageRank that would have been distributed to that nofollow link is NOT redistributed, it is essentially wasted (such as this Matt Cuts blog post).
      • Important – I wouldn’t recommend explaining SEO concepts in-depth over email. What would be more credible and powerful is to make your point in a sentence or two and then provide a link to a resource that backs up your point from an obviously credible source (Google’s blog, something that contains a quote from Google, a reputable study, etc.). Empowering an editor with the information they need to make their own decision is powerful and helpful.
      • Here are a couple of recently published resources to have bookmarked in case you are in a situation like this:

Here’s the extent I’d recommend explaining something in the email itself (real example):

  • Me: “Regarding the link, you can nofollow if it’s an absolute sticking point for you. However, we do feel that since the link is going to a relevant page (where you can find more writing by Julia), there won’t be any risk. Also, there are millions of websites linking to [client], so we feel from that standpoint, it’s not really going to raise any red flags.”
  • Editor: “OK — that all works. The nofollow link really isn’t a sticking point … I appreciate your feedback.

Savvy Shelby

savvy shelby.png

  • How to identify:
    • Responses that comment on how a topic relates to user experience, engagement, visibility, or other editorial areas
  • Savvy Shelby’s perspective:
    • Knows what she needs to know about links — that they are important to people, relevant to search engines, and are a form of currency when working with writers and freelancers
    • Knows that there are things that she doesn’t know about links — that search engines and technical marketers know a lot more than she does about exactly how links work
    • Knows that user experience is what really matters — that if a link doesn’t feel valuable to a user and isn’t a gesture to reward a contributor for a brilliant piece (trusting the contributor enough to know that it won’t be harmful), it may not be something she wants to include
  • Communication strategy:
    • If the link was omitted entirely, explain why including that link will positively impact user experience.
      • Will it provide author credibility?
      • Help users find more content that the author has written?
      • Expand on the topic somehow?
    • If the link has a nofollow tag, let the editor know that the author you are working with prefers to have the freedom to include a followed link in their attribution. This is why it’s so important that you’ve earned the link and provided incredibly valuable content to her and her audience. Trust must have been built by now.

Side note: Make this editor your best friend. They are your most powerful publishing partner.

Oblivious Oliver

oblivious oliver.png

  • How to identify:
    • There may not be specific language to look out for here, besides hints that suggest complete apathy or a lack of editorial structure or direction. Look for off-topic content or grammatical errors during your initial research. You probably don’t want to do a lot of work (and build an association) with a site that doesn’t scrutinize the work of their guest contributors.
  • Oblivious Oliver’s perspective:
    • Doesn’t know anything about links or an association between links and search engines
    • He’s willing to do almost anything with links, as long as it doesn’t make the page look bad
    • May be so hungry for original content that he’s willing to sacrifice quality in general
  • Communication strategy:
    • If you’re just realizing that you’re dealing with an Oblivious Oliver at this stage, it may be a sign that you’re not doing enough detailed research on the site upfront. Perhaps there were some hints within content on his site that you could have picked up on.
    • Regardless, at this point it doesn’t matter. Follow through on your word to deliver a high-quality piece of content and move on to the next opportunity.

The biggest takeaway here is the simplest one: Email communication around controversial or misunderstood topics (such as links) is difficult. Because of this, it will benefit you to keep your communication in simple editorial vernacular until you have earned the right to talk about links — by providing something valuable. When you identify a Savvy Shelby, cultivate the relationship. And for the rest, I hope that this guide empowers you to respond in a manner that’s more effective and will get you results.

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Preparing Your Killer Content Marketing Pitch

Posted by EricEnge

When you first start in content marketing, you usually have little to no audience of your own for your content. If you’re a major brand, you may be able to develop this quickly, but it’s still extremely helpful to get visibility on third-party sites to grow your reputation and visibility as a producer of fantastic content, and to also net links to your site.

This can come in the form of third parties linking to content on your site, or getting guest posting or columnist opportunities on those sites. A key stage in that process is creating a pitch to the site in question, in order to get them to say “yes” to whatever it is you’re requesting.

The hardest part of writing any pitch isn’t the creation of the pitch itself. It’s the legwork you have to do in advance. Successful pitches are all about preparation, and frankly, there needs to be a lot of it.

To illustrate this, I’m going to walk through the process using a fictitious landscaping business, describing what they might need to do to start successful pitching of the content they plan to create.

Step 1: Competitive research/identify topic areas

You aren’t ready to pitch until you understand what else is out there. You need to visit major sites and see what they’re writing about landscaping and related topics. You also need to see what your competitors are doing in terms of content marketing.

If your competitor has been proactively doing content marketing for two years, it’s a good idea to see what areas they’ve been focusing on. For example, if the competitor has already established themselves as the thought leader in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) landscaping, perhaps your initial focus should be on something else.

Perhaps you can concentrate on specialty areas, such as prepping your yard for a wedding reception, a graduation party, or the integration of an in-ground pool into the yard.

I’d start by pulling raw data from tools such as Open Site Explorer, and getting the Domain Authority data on the links they have. I did this for one landscaping business, and here’s a snapshot of the highest-authority links they have:

For this company, it would be interesting to see what they’re doing with ThisOldHouse.com. That looks like a key relationship for them, as they’ve received 131 links from that site. Ultimately, what you would do next is dig into the details of each of these sites, find out why the competitor got the links, and uncover what it tells you about your opportunities.

Step 2: Identify target sites

Who covers topic areas similar to yours? Have they published third-party contributions before? You can obtain some of this from the competitive research you went through in Step 1. But, to take it further, I did a search on “landscaping ideas”:

This brought up a bunch of high-authority sites to check out. As a next step, I collected data on their Domain Authorities, and then dug into whether or not they accepted guest posts. The search query I used to get information on whether a site accepts guest posts looks something like this:

After doing that, we can assemble the data into a table that looks like this:

This now helps you understand who to potentially pitch. Important note: Don’t limit yourself to guest posts. With very high-authority sites like many of these, you may want to explore becoming a columnist. Pitching a column may be even easier than pitching a guest post, as it suggests that you are interested in a long-term relationship, which may be of greater interest to the target site.

In addition, explore whether or not the sites in question do interviews of experts on different topics. This could be another way to get your foot in the door.

Step 3: Line up your experts

Having a legitimate expert writing for you is a crucial part of any pitch. Successful off-site content marketing requires you to get placement on some of the top sites covering your market. You won’t succeed at this unless you have someone creating content for you that really knows their stuff.

It’s great if the subject matter expert (SME) is you, or someone working for you. This makes pitching your expertise easier. However, if no one inside your business has the time, you can rent (contract) the expertise. Either way, make sure your author is a legit SME.

If you need to rent your SME, there are many ways to go about identifying someone. Here are some potential approaches to use:

  1. Search the sites you identified that accept guest posts, and find out who is writing them. A query such as: “guest post” site:bhg.com is pretty effective for this.
  2. Search related hashtags on Twitter, such as #landscaping and #gardening, to see who’s sharing related content.
  3. Try other Google search queries, such as “landscaping design articles” or “landscaping books,” and identify the authors.
  4. Search Amazon directly for landscaping and gardening books.

You get the idea. Once you have identified a bunch of people, you have to start figuring out who might be a potential author for you. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay them to write on your behalf, and you’ll have to help them line up places to write, as well.

You don’t need the absolute top name in the market, but you want someone who can credibly write unique and valuable content for you (you want what Rand calls 10x Content).

Step 4: Identify the target topic

Once you have your writing team identified, work out with them what types of content they can help you create that meets these three goals:

  1. Fits your competitive strategy per Step 1.
  2. Might be of interest to your target sites.
  3. Matches up with what your SME can write.

The topics you pitch need to be different for each site. Let’s say we’ve decided on BHG.com as one of our sites of interest. As a first step, you can try searching the query “site:bhg.com landscaping” (quotes not required):

This does not yet solve the problem for us, as it shows over 6,000 results. The good news is that this site covers the topic a lot; however, you’re looking to see what gaps there may be in their coverage, and then see if you can pick something that will be supplemental to what they already have published.

Since 6,000+ posts is a lot to look at, let’s see if we can simplify it a bit more. Here’s a follow-up search:

This idea assumes you’re able to create content around the topic of landscaping for colonial homes. Assuming you are, you can go through this and start trying to figure out what type of content you can create that the site hasn’t seen before.

This is an essential part of the process. Your goal is to come up with a topic that comes across to the editor you pitch as offering unique to value to their site. This is what the first four steps have been about. Don’t go past this step until you have the first four steps nailed.

Step 5: Research the people you will pitch

We’re getting close to pitch time, but we have one more research step left. First, figure out who it is at the target site that you are going to pitch. Usually, identifying the editorial staff is pretty simple. In the case of this CountryLiving.com site, they have an About page, which shows us who their editors are:

Next, start researching the various editors. Do they publish on the site? Read what they’ve written. Are they active on social media? Start following them there. Advance points for establishing credibility by having meaningful interactions with them about their articles in their social feeds before ever sending them a pitch. At a minimum, make sure you learn what you can about their likes and dislikes.

Step 6: Craft the pitch

Finally, we get to write our pitch! Steps 1 through 5 are about making this step the easiest of them all. Let’s start with three rules:

  1. Personalize every pitch. No automatic pitch-building whatsoever.
  2. Know what your key value proposition is, and lead with it.
  3. Keep it short. Get right to the point, and don’t waste their time.

Those are the three most important things to remember. To satisfy rule two, start figuring out what the lead of your pitch is. Brought in a well-known expert? Lead with that. Groundbreaking study? Lead with that. Filling a void in the content-published-to-date on the target site? Lead with that.

This is where your pitch is won or lost. The major pitch elements are:

  1. Your lead value proposition up front.
  2. Something that shows you’ve done your homework.
  3. The specific nature of the request.
  4. Additional required background.

Here’s an example of a pitch:

Even though I’ve included some areas that need filling in, don’t confuse this with being a template that you auto-populate. The comments you make on what they’ve already published and the nature of what you’re suggesting to them are all custom.

Also, if your author or your business is really well-known, then that might be the lead value proposition, rather than the content. In that case, lead with those facts, cover the proposed article topic in the second paragraph, and structure the email differently.

Summary

As I noted in the beginning, successful pitches are all about the preparation. Treat each opportunity to pitch someone as special and rare. After all, if you sent them a crappy pitch, and it shows you didn’t put in any special effort, you may have burned that bridge permanently.

That can be very costly, especially as your reputation and visibility continues to grow over time. Do all the upfront work correctly, and the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts will be greatly amplified.

We all like to get an edge on our competition, and one of the best ways to do that in content marketing is to master and perfect your pitching process.

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