Building genuinely powerful and authoritative links isn’t easy. Sure, there are tons of ways to build links, but how many of these techniques actually enable you to gain real editorial mentions from top tier websites?
The answer: not many.
Getting a link from a leading publication within your industry can’t even be compared to something like a link from a directory, even if that directory is DMOZ. That’s because editorial links from industry-relevant publications hold so much more value than just the link equity. Such benefits include social media exposure, brand awareness, targeted referral traffic and, ultimately, direct conversion potential (to name a few).
What I’m going to talk about within this article isn’t necessarily a new technique, but it will go into detail on the approach I take to get results from press request link building (in a way that can be scaled). I’ll show you the tools that I use, the techniques that I’ve refined over the years and how to make the best use of your time for maximum results.
What Are Press Requests?
If you haven’t used press request services before, then you’re really missing out. In a nutshell, they are platforms that allow journalists to connect with brands, bloggers and agencies in order to get input into their upcoming articles.
This could be in the shape of a simple comment on a topic, an extra reading resource, a review product or a full article. There are all sorts of ways that they’re used, but more importantly, they’re used by major publications all over the world.
I even use them when I’m searching for input into some of my articles if I’m looking for a giveaway prize on some of my other blogs (here’s an example).
There are tons of different services that you can use, but here are a few for you to check out. They’re a mixture of paid and free services:
- HARO (one of the most popular free services)
- ResponseSource (paid service aimed more at the UK)
- Muck Rack (paid service)
- Gorkana (paid service)
- Source Bottle (free service)
- Press Quest (UK free service)
- Vocus (paid service)
- #JournoRequest (Twitter hashtag used by journalists)
- #PRrequest (Twitter hashtag used by journalists)
Once you’ve signed up to a few of these services, you’ll soon start to realise the sheer amount of emails you will receive from journalists each day. On average, I receive around 200, and I only use a couple of these services.
If you’re not organised, then you’ll end up missing opportunities.
Another thing worth mentioning at this stage is that time really is of the essence. Most journalists will want quick input on their requests — we’re talking hours, not days here — so you need a process in place for responding to requests.
If you’ve got a whole PR team at your disposal then this becomes a lot easier as you can have different people watching out for different topics at different times of the day. This is the ideal situation. I’m not going to presume that everyone has this though, so for the purposes of this article, I’ll assume that you’re just an individual with no other resources.
Here’s how I set my emails up:
- Create separate folders within your inbox for each of the different services you use (i.e., ResponseSource, HARO, Muck Rack, etc.).
- Create rules for any new emails from each of these services to go into their allocated folders.
- Create sub-folders underneath each main folder that are broken down into different topics. For example, I have folders marked as Small Business, SEO, Social Media, Blogging, etc.
- Once you’ve created these sub-folders, create rules on any of the emails that include keywords related to each topic to be filed under the relevant sub-folder. For example, any request mentioning SEO will go into my SEO sub-folder. I also exclude any emails from going into the folders that mention competitions or review products (this avoids me getting irrelevant requests). This may not be the case for you, though.
- The final thing that I do is create rules on any of the emails from these services that will flag an email that comes through from a publication that I’m targeting. In my case, I have alerts for any PR requests that come through from Forbes, The Guardian, The Financial Times and a few others.
This will only take around 15 minutes to configure, and it will seriously increase your effectiveness at both identifying potential PR opportunities and being able to respond to them.
Useful: Check out these guides on how to set up email rules within Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.
Taking it a Step Further
Building on mail alerts, I take this a little further for really important requests that I want to ensure I can respond to. This part I do through using IFTTT (If This Then That).
If you’re anything like me, you don’t end up spending a lot of time behind your desk. I’m usually on the move a lot throughout the week, so staying on top of PR requests can be tricky to say the least — even when I’ve got all my email folders sorted out.
Using IFTTT, I get an SMS sent to my cell phone whenever I receive an email from HARO requesting input on an article focused around SEO. You can use the recipe I created here to get this set up quickly.
I’ve also added a draft email response template into my iPhone/iPad notes so that when I receive the SMS, I can quickly check the email, replace a few fields in my response template and get it sent over to the journalist as quickly as possible. Perfect for when I’m on the move!
How To Respond To Requests
Once you’ve got everything set up so that you can respond as quickly as possible, you need to know how best to respond to requests. I’ve been responding to requests for several years now and have refined my process a lot over this time.
Each week, I’ll get between 3-4 editorial mentions from PR requests from about 2 hours of my time. Considering that these mentions have come from the likes of Forbes, TechRadar and Yahoo, that’s not a bad ROI.
Here are some pointers for responding to journalists:
- Do not phone them unless they specifically stated they wanted to be called. This is a huge bugbear of many journalists (just check out Alice Troung’s response in this article from BuzzSumo).
- Use the name of the service they contacted you through within the email subject, along with the topic of their request. For example, “HARO: Comments on article surrounding the fracking industry”.
- Don’t mention links at all (you can do this at a later stage).
- Open the email with a small intro as to who you are (about two sentences).
- Give them what they want within the first email. If they want comments for their article, don’t just send them an email saying you can get them; actually send them over in the first email (I usually send over 4/5 bullet points).
- Make sure that you send over content that can easily be plugged into their article with as little editing as possible (if it doesn’t quite fit then it could be a lost opportunity).
- Add in clear contact details to get back in touch with you, along with your social profiles.
- If you’re responding via Twitter, be sure to give them your email to get in touch directly or offer to DM them details.
In terms of timing, I always respond as quickly as possible. This should be balanced out with the time it will take to deliver a good, quality response — there’s no point responding really quickly with a crappy contribution.