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Supercharge Your Link Building Outreach! 5 Tips for Success – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Shannon-McGuirk

Spending a ton of effort on outreach and waking up to an empty inbox is a demoralizing (and unfortunately common) experience. And when it comes to your outreach, getting those emails opened is half the battle. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome recent MozCon 2019 alum Shannon McGuirk to share five of her best tips to make your outreach efficient and effective — the perfect follow-up to her talk about building a digital PR newsroom.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. My name is Shannon McGuirk. I’m the Head of PR and Content at a UK-based digital marketing agency called Aira. So at this year’s MozCon, I spoke about how to supercharge your link building with a digital PR newsroom and spoke about the three different types of media and journalist writing that we should be tapping into.

But I only had half an hour to be able to share my insights and thoughts. As a next step from that presentation, I need to equip you guys with everything in order to be able to go out and actually speak to these journalists. So for my Whiteboard Friday today, I’m going to be sharing my five tips for success for supercharging your outreach, specifically evolved around email outreach alone.

In the U.K. and in the U.S. as well, we’re seeing, as our industry grows and develops, journalists don’t want to be called anymore, and instead the best way to get in touch with them is via email or on social media. So let’s dive straight in. 

1. Subject lines A/B tests

So tip one then. I want to share some insights with you that I did for subject lines and specifically around some A/B testing.

Back in the early part of the summer, around April time, we started working on a tool called BuzzStream. Now that allowed us to be able to send different kinds of tests and emails out with a variety of different subject lines in order for us to understand how many open rates we were getting and to try and encourage journalists, through the use of our language and emojis, to open up those all-important pitch emails so that we could follow up and make sure that we’re bringing those links home.

Journalist’s name in subject line

So we ran two different types of A/B tests. The first one here you can see was with the journalist’s name in the subject line and the journalist’s name without. It turns out then that actually, when we were running this data, we were seeing far more opens if we had the journalist’s name in the subject line. It was getting their attention. It was getting that cut-through that we needed when they’re getting hundreds of emails per day and to see their name in a little nib meant that we were increasing open rates. So that was our first learning from test number one. 

“Data” vs “story tip”

Now test number two, we had a bit of a gut feel and a little bit of an instinct to feel that there were certain types of words and language that we were using that were either getting us more open rates or not. For this one specifically, it was around the use of the word “data.” So we compared the use of the word “data” with story tip, and again including the journalist’s name and not, to try and see how many journalists were opening up our emails.

At Aira, we have around a 33% open rate with any campaigns that we launch, and again this is tracked through BuzzStream. But when we started to do these A/B tests, combine story tip, full name, and then follow with “data,” we increased that to 52%. So that jump up, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get 52% more links off the back of your outreach, but it means that you are getting more people opening up their email, considering your data, considering your campaigns, which is half of the problem, when we all know as outreachers, content marketers, digital PRs how difficult it can be for someone to even just open that initial approach.

So now, off the back of those A/B tests, make sure that whenever you’re writing those emails out you have story tip for Tom and then followed by data and whatever research you’ve got in that campaign. 

2. Headline language

For tip two then, keeping on the theme of language, I did a piece of research for another conference that I was speaking at earlier in the summer called SearchLeeds and another one called outREACH.

I analyzed 35,000 articles across 6 different top 10 news sites in the U.K. The language that came out of that, around the headlines specifically, was so interesting. So I split these 35,000 articles down into relevant sectors, took the likes of travel, automotive, business, what have you, and then I was able to create around 30 word clouds according to different articles that had been produced within these different industries at different titles.

I was able to start to see common words that were used in headlines, and that got my mind ticking a bit. I was starting to think, well, actually as a team, at Aira, we should be starting to pitch and use language within our pitches that journalists are already using, because they straightaway resonate with the story that we’ve got. So here’s a quick snapshot of the kind of word clouds that the analysis revealed.

You can kind of see some core words shining through. So we’ve got research, best, stats, experts, that kind of thing. Now the top five words that were most commonly used across all sectors within the headlines were: best, worst, data, new, and revealed. Now “data” is really interesting, because if we go back to our A/B testing, we know that that’s a strong word and that that will get you more opens with your subject lines.

But it also reaffirms that that A/B test is right and that we definitely should be using “data.” So combine story tip for that journalist’s name, Tom or what have you, with data and then start to use some of the language here, out of these top five, and again you’re going to increase your open rates, which is half of the problem with what we’re doing with outreach.

3. Use color

So tip three then. Now this was quite an experimental approach that we took, and a huge recommendation of mine, when you’re doing your email outreach, is actually to start to use color within that all-important pitch email itself. So we’ve moved from subject lines into looking at the body of the email. We use color and bolding back at Aira.

So we use color straightaway when we’re writing the email. So we’ll start with something like, “Dear Tom, I have a story that you might be interested in.” Straight under that, so we’re already using again the language that they’ll be using, story, going back to our A/B test. But then straight under that, we will bold, capitalize, and put in a really bright color — reds, greens, blues — nice, strong primary colors there the headline that we think Tom might write off the back of our outreach.

So here’s an example. “New data reveals that 21% of drivers have driven with no insurance.” Not the most exciting headline in the world. But if Tom here is an automotive editor or a digital online automotive writer, straightaway he knows what I’m talking to him about. Again, he can start to see how this data can be used to craft stories for his own audience.

Again, as I said, this is quite experimental. We’re in the early phases of it at Aira, but we know it’s working, and it’s something that I learnt, again, at outREACH conference too. Straight under this use of color with headline, you should pull out your key stats. Now only keep those bullet points to three to five. Journalists are busy.

They’re on deadlines. Don’t be having huge, bulk paragraphs or long-winded sentences. Tell them the headline, follow it up with the key stats. Be clean, be punchy, and get to the point really quickly. Below this, obviously sign off and include any press material, Google Drive links, press packs that you’ve got under that. Again, we’re seeing this work really, really well.

We’re still in the early stages, and I hope to share some insights, some kind of data and metrics as to the success results of it. But we’ve been able to secure links from the likes of the Mail Online, the Telegraph back in the U.K., and also last week just FoxBusiness using this exact approach. 

4. Use emojis

So tip four then, and again this is a really playful technique and something that we only learnt with experimentation.

Start to use emojis within your pitches as well. Now this can be used within the subject line. Again, you’re looking to try and get the journalist to get that piece of attention straightaway and look at your headline. Or start to use them within the body of the email too, because they break up that text and it makes your email stand out far more than if you have someone that’s pitching in a business piece of data and you’ve just got huge stacks and research pieces.

Actually throw in some emojis that are relating to the business world, a laptop or whatever it may be, something that proves your point around the campaign. Again, it’s more engaging for a journalist to read that. It means that they’ll probably remember your email over the other 200 that they’re getting that day. So really nice, simplistic tip then for me.

If you’re pitching something in the automotive world, put a car or traffic lights on the end. If you’re doing something in the travel sphere, sun, beaches, something that just gets that journalist’s eye. It means that your email is going to be opened above anyone else’s. 

5. Use Twitter

Finally then, so I know I’ve kept this around email outreach for the last couple of points.

But one thing that we’re seeing work really well with the implementation of this digital PR newsroom is starting to approach and speak to journalists on Twitter. Twitter we know is a new source for journalists. Trending topics will obviously be picked up in the press and covered on a daily if not hourly basis. As soon as something breaks on Twitter, we’ll see journalists, writers, bloggers turn that trending feature into an article that’s really resonant and relevant for their audience.

So in the run-up to your campaign, way before the launch, we’re talking like three or four weeks here, reach out to the journalists on Twitter. Start to engage with them. Like some articles. Start to let them know that you’re in and engaging with them on their social media platform. Don’t push it too hard.

You don’t want to go overboard with this. But a little bit of engagement here and there means that when your email comes into their inbox, it’s not a new name, and you’re already starting to build the foundations of that relationship. Secondary to this then, feel free and start to experiment with DM’ing journalists as well. We know that they’re getting two, three, or four hundred emails per day. If you take to Twitter and send them a quick overview of your up-and-coming campaign via a Twitter DM, it’s likely that they’ll read that on the journey home or potentially when they’re walking from meeting to meeting.

Again, it puts you one step ahead of your competitors. Recently we’ve got some of our best pieces of coverage through warming the press up and specific journalists through Twitter, because when your campaign launches, you’re not going out with it cold. Instead the journalist knows that it’s coming in. They may even have the editorial space to cover that feature for you too. It’s something that we’ve seen really work, and again I can’t stress enough that you really have to find that balance.

You don’t want to be plaguing journalists. You don’t want to be a pain and starting to like every single tweet they do. But if it is relevant and you find an opportunity to engage and speak to them about your campaign the weeks in advance, it opens up that door. Again, you may be able to secure an exclusive out of it, which means that you get that first huge hit. So there are my five tips for link building in 2019, and it will help you supercharge things.

Now if you have any comments for me, any questions, please pop them in the thread below or reach out to me on Twitter. As I’ve just said, feel free to send me a DM. I’m always around and would love to help you guys a little bit more if you do have any questions for me. Thanks, Moz fans.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Did you miss Shannon’s groundbreaking talk at MozCon 2019, How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom? Download the deck here and don’t miss out on next year’s conference — super early bird discounts are available now!

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7 Google tips to supercharge your Shopping ads

Shopping ads promote your online and local inventory. Columnist and Googler Matt Lawson reveals seven ways to get the most from your campaigns.

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3 Smart Moves that Supercharge Sales Funnels with Content

use content to power up your funnel

The problem with many business blogs is that they’re boring, product-centric, and full of corporate jargon — not exactly the juicy, engaging, personality-filled content that readers love to consume and share.

While you want to establish trust and authority with your audience, content that helps you meet business goals also fills your sales funnel with interested prospects.

So, if you’d like your content to be share-worthy and generate leads, this post is for you. Read on for three ways to supercharge your sales funnel.

1. Eliminate fuzzy funnels

If your current sales funnel is vague and amounts to something like, “I’ll get people onto my email list, and then when my bank account gets low, I’ll make an offer,” don’t worry; you’re not alone! But as a Copyblogger reader, I know you can do better.

At its most basic, your sales funnel is an intentional path that turns a website visitor into a paying customer — and then into a happy, repeat customer.

Your sales funnel might be an email autoresponder that utilizes marketing automation. It helps your audience get to know your business, builds credibility, and makes an introductory offer.

Here’s my main point: if you create content to generate new leads, you first have to establish what your sales funnel looks like.

Action step

Draw out your sales funnel, digitally or with good old pen and paper.  

  • What are the steps that turn a website visitor into a paying customer?
  • How do they hear from you?
  • What offers do they receive and in what order?

2. Give your audience a “little slice” as your opt-in

To fill your sales funnel with the most qualified prospects — your ideal customers — give them a “little slice” of your product or service for free.

Here’s how the “little slice” technique works:

  • For each offer in your sales funnel, identify the problem it solves for the customer.
  • How can you take a “little slice” of that problem and solve it for free in your opt-in gift?

Let’s first look at an example of what not to do

Imagine you’re a weight loss coach. You need an opt-in gift, so you decide to make a PDF with “5 Healthy Recipes.” Unfortunately, this recipe PDF attracts all sorts of different people. (Or, as is the problem with lots of generic content, it attracts no one!)

So, now you’re filling your sales funnel with people who might want weight loss advice, but also busy moms, broke students who need quick meal ideas, bodybuilders, diabetics, and anyone else interested in healthy cooking.  

When you eventually make an offer for your weight loss program, there are only a small percentage of people in your funnel who are seriously interested in losing weight. Everyone else has problems that you’re (probably) not solving.

Contrast that example with the “little slice” technique

This same weight loss coach might offer a free seven-day weight loss jump-start challenge as an opt-in, which then leads to an offer for her paid weight loss program.

That “little slice” opt-in attracts prospects who are interested specifically in weight loss and who also want to participate in a program to help them reach their goals.

These prospects are much more likely to buy a full weight loss program than the random mix of people interested in “healthy recipes.”

The “little slice” technique works for all types of businesses

A software business might offer a free trial or free plugin with a portion of their product’s functionality, which leads to an offer for the full product. 

The “little slice” technique attracts the right people into your sales funnel because your content focuses on a central problem that you solve with your products or services.

Action step

For each product or service in your funnel:

  • Identify the problem it solves
  • Take a “little slice” of that problem and solve it in an opt-in gift

The next step will show you how to extract more “little slices” for additional pieces of content.

3. Create content that attracts your ideal customer

As you know from your own experience, you’re not always in buying mode. Sometimes you’re searching online because you’re ready to buy, but most of the time you just want information, connection, or entertainment. It’s the same for your prospect.

Writing content that your ideal customer wants to read (and share!) starts with identifying which phase of the sales funnel he is in.

Sales funnels can get really complex, but there are essentially three major phases:

  1. Awareness Phase. The prospect has symptoms, may realize he has a problem, but isn’t looking for solutions (he might not even know that solutions exist).
  2. Consideration Phase. The prospect knows he has a problem and knows solutions exist, so he’s actively researching solutions.
  3. Buying Phase. The prospect is actively evaluating solutions to choose the best fit.

We’ll focus on the first two phases, which is when the majority of leads will enter your sales funnel. (You’ll want to handle leads in the Buying Phase differently — by tracking visits to a pricing page and making it easy to get answers to last-minute questions.)

Imagine the type of person who is attracted to the blog post with the headline “Why So Tired? 6 Little-Known Causes.”

This post attracts a reader who feels tired and wants to know why she might feel this way. This reader is most likely in the Awareness Phase.

She has symptoms but isn’t sure about the underlying cause — so selling her directly on your “Quit Caffeine” course wouldn’t work because she doesn’t realize caffeine consumption is related to her tiredness.

Now imagine the type of person who is attracted to the blog post with the headline “How to Quit Caffeine for Good.”

This post attracts a reader who already knows she needs to quit caffeine. She’s probably in the Consideration Phase because she’s looking for a solution to her problem.

You’ll want to bring both types of readers into your sales funnel, but you’ll communicate with them differently.

Readers in the Awareness Phase want to read about their symptoms, the underlying problem, other people who have the same problem, and that there are solutions to fix their problem.

For this phase, consider creating content related to these questions:

  • How can you help them solve a little piece of their problem for free (“little slice content”)?
  • What are the symptoms they’re experiencing and what’s the impact on their lives?
  • What’s the underlying problem that you recognize as an expert, but they don’t?
  • What does a beginner need to know about Problem XYZ?
  • What are the first steps to solve Problem XYZ?

Readers in the Consideration Phase know they have a problem and are looking for a solution.

They’re attracted to:

  • Case studies — how others like them have already solved this problem
  • Review posts that compare various solutions, including yours
  • Buying guides that help them make a smart decision
  • Content that addresses objections
  • Implementation tips, advice, and FAQs

Content that is more likely to be shared isn’t only about your specific product or service; it’s beneficial guidance related to the type of product or service you offer.

Action step

Make a list of content topics based on the ideas above and remember to include topics that provide a “little slice” of your opt-in gift, as well as topics that address the concerns of prospects in the Awareness Phase and prospects in the Consideration Phase.

Plan this content into your editorial calendar to meet your ideal customers’ needs.

Over to you …

When you follow these three methods, you’ll find that your content attracts more of the right customers who also want to share your useful content.

How do you make sure your content helps convert prospects into customers? Share in the comments below.

The post 3 Smart Moves that Supercharge Sales Funnels with Content appeared first on Copyblogger.


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6 Ways to Supercharge Your Writing

image of superhero kid

Have you ever gotten so caught up in a deadline (or your own expectations) that writing anything at all felt … uncomfortable?

Too often as writers we measure ourselves by our level of productivity. We get so worried about being productive that we forget to enjoy ourselves.

Here’s the rub: if you aren’t enjoying your writing you aren’t truly being productive.

Give me six minutes and I’ll give you six techniques that’ll make you a happy and productive writer.

MORE When you stop feeling happy — or good about your work — you lose motivation.

If you lack motivation you won’t get much accomplished. I know you know this, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve never created a happiness system.

A personal story about writing, motivation and failure

Last month I was setting up 3 Twitter parties in 1 week.

I was writing my face off and hating every minute of my effort. We all know the saying, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.”

I certainly wasn’t living that quote.

I was stressed and worried about getting the all the copy done for my project. Most of it was self-induced.

Who am I kidding? It was all self-induced. I just wanted the copy done so I could relax. I wanted it out of my mind so I could move on.

After I finished, I switched to my editor’s mind and read over my blog posts, newsletter posts, landing pages and tweets.

Half of it was decent, and then I read through the other half. It sucked.

I knew exactly why. I was writing from a place of stress and frustration instead of fun and curiosity.

My writing superpower had failed me because I was bullying myself instead of enjoying the process.

My arch nemesis was laughing at my feeble attempt of writing the second half of my copy. It took me much longer to rewrite the landing page and newsletter email than if I would have worked on them both from a place of fun and curiosity.

I analyzed the process and discovered some fascinating concepts that can help you supercharge your writing.

The best way to optimize your writing superpower is to start at ground zero.

1. Know your “Why” before you sit down to write

You have to know why you need to write.

I’m not talking about the pay that you get for each article, press release or email you write. I’m talking about your intrinsic motivation.

Why does the work get you excited?

By knowing why you want to do the work you won’t get burnt out. Believe me, writing non stop articles/copy can be exhausting if you aren’t doing them for a higher purpose.

This may mean writing articles to improve your writing, writing articles to get your message out into the world, or to niche yourself as an expert in this field.

Whatever it is, know that you aren’t doing it just for the money because if you are you aren’t going to last as a writer.

2. Know your productivity hot-spots

Every writer has a certain time of day that allows for peak creativity.

Some writers love that first cup of Joe in the early morning when everything is quiet and they can focus. Others love late nights when their body is a little tired, but not too tired.

You have a hot-spot. Experiment with working hard a different hours of the day and find it.

Notice when you are most productive and creative throughout the day. Don’t “try” to make time during this period, make time.

If you write best at night then make sure you aren’t disturbed and write until your brain gives out.

You’ll get more done in two hours during your hot-spot than in four hours outside of this zone.

3. Walk with your emotions

As a writer you’ll hit those weak moments when your writing isn’t lighting the world on fire.

If you’re like most writers, most of your moments will be like this.

It happens to us all, but what you do during this time will make the difference between success and failure.

You need to walk with your emotions when you are having trouble focusing. As a writer a cloudy mind means crappy writing.

You need to clear your head. I like to do this by taking a walk and talking to my arch nemesis.

By thinking of this cloudiness as an arch nemesis, I create an emotional bridge between me and my problem.

I also bring my dog to help fight this battle. We talk about my fears, resistance, and how I can get back on track. Then after about 30 minutes I can usually get back and meet my deadline.

If you aren’t processing your emotions on a daily basis you are allowing your arch nemesis to push you around.

4. Refocus your creativity by reading a kid’s book

A friend of mine, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, loves asking people what they do to improve a bad mood.

Gretchen always starts off by saying that she loves to read kid’s books to bring some happiness back into her day.

I’ve also found this is a great way to refocus my creativity.

I can be way off on an article. I can feel myself floating out in space trying to grab on to anything to help ground me. When I feel this disconnect I’ll grab one of my favorite kid’s books and just read it through.

I always end up feeling lighter and more focused and jump back into my work with renewed vigor.

Use this technique (or find another way) to refocus that mind so you meet your deadlines and stop stressing out so much.

5. Create a writing point system

Every day is basically the same set-up for me.

I like to create my list for the day — my main focus and how productive I expect to be.

I keep a point system for everything that I accomplish. The bigger stuff like writing an article for a blog, I’ll give myself 2 points. The smaller stuff like emails, networking, or short business conversations I’ll give myself 1 point.

I try to reach 10 points by the end of the day. I reach my goal about 50% of the time. By making my goal of 10 points hard to reach it pushes me to be productive throughout my day. No matter how many points I get I always celebrate my accomplishments.

You should have a way of keeping track of your productivity.

When you measure what you do you have a better idea of what’s working and what isn’t, then you can adjust and improve.

6. Make time for a party

Celebrations of your success might get pushed to the back of the line because, well, you’ve got work to do.

This is a huuuuge mistake. You can’t keep producing great copy if you aren’t celebrating your wins.

I have a freelance writer friend who will take 20 minutes to draw a silly cartoon when she feels like celebrating.

It gets her away from the computer, helps her use another part of her brain, and replenishes her creative juices. It’s her perfect mini-party.

When she accomplishes something big like an ebook she goes out that Friday with her friends, no matter how tired she feels.

When you are done working on an important project then do something to celebrate.

It can be 10 minutes on YouTube or going out to lunch with a friend. You need to reward yourself for your hard work. Too many of us don’t get enough face-to-face friend time as it is, so we need as many excuses as we can get to be social.

And I’m not talking about hopping on Twitter.

I’m talking about hanging out in the real world, with people who you can actually hug.

Remember this …

You have to set up your writing career for happiness.

If you aren’t taking the time to create some happiness systems you are losing out on a lot of amazing productivity.

It always comes back to love.

If you can’t enjoy your work, you aren’t going to succeed. Marketing a business is the same way. You can’t do marketing you hate. You have to connect with people in a fun way that doesn’t feel like work.

If you hate writing long emails to prospective new clients because that’s what the experts tell you to do, write short emails that make you feel energized. The people who read your copy will feel the passion and they are more likely to open and read your emails.

Think about what you need to write and produce amazing content.

Your writing superpower will only weaken if you don’t find ways to connect with the love of your work.

About the Author: Karl Staib is addicted to throwing Twitter Parties to bring exposure to bloggers. If you want to learn how Twitter Parties can help your business grow then check out the previous link. You can also follow Karl on Twitter so you can stay in the know on all the Twitter parties and their prizes.


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