How to use HARO and JournoRequests to build links

TLDR; How to build DA55+ links in just over 40 minutes using HARO & JournoRequests.

Building links, or rather, building the type of links that make the needle move in terms of rankings has never been harder.

There is, however, a major source of untapped links that I believe many people are missing out on – JournoRequests.

What are JournoRequests?

Journalists need quotable sources to make their stories credible. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier for them to find commenters on even the most obscure subjects.

This is great news for you and your clients, as it means there are thousands of people out there who are willing to quote you, and crucially give you some powerful links!

I’m going to show you how I have built a number of links from high authority sites using a very simple, 3 step process.

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Tweetdeck #journorequest column

Step 1 – finding JournoRequest opportunities

There are 2 main ways of finding JournoRequest opportunities:

Twitter – follow the hashtag #JournoRequest for the most up to date requests. Many of these requests can be quite obscure, so you way want to add another relevant keyword to find the most relevant enquiries to your vertical.

Tip: I recommend setting up columns for your #JournoRequest columns in your Tweetdeck account and checking these daily.

Sourcing services – There are several services you can join which connect you with journalists who are seeking sources. The most popular, and the one I have had the greatest success with is HARO (Help a Reporter Out).

Tip: Subscribe to HARO’s free email digests which are sent out twice daily.

 

HARO Digest email
HARO Digest email

 

Step 2 – Identifying the right opportunities

Once you have a steady flow of requests, it’s time to start responding to them. It may be tempting at first to respond to every single one, but it is unlikely that this will lead to a good response rate. Read each request carefully and if you are confident you can offer some decent insight then respond.

Tip: quickly scan through this list every day to see if there are opportunities in areas you have expertise in.

 

Step 3 – Writing your pitch

You’ve found an opportunity, and you have something worthwhile to say, now it’s time to write your pitch. Make sure you have fully read the request in full and responded accordingly. For example, if it requests a picture, make sure one is attached.

Tip: I have found that the following template for pitch emails works particularly well – offer your initial comment and any further comments if required.

Hi [FNAME],

Please find a response to your request below:

“Response goes here…“

If published, I will share with 5000+ social media followers etc.

Happy to comment further.

The results

The following are articles I have gained links from by following this process:

Bitly.com – Social Media PredictionsDA 93

Businesszone.co.uk – When should you take on your first employee? – DA 59

Docurated.com – 63 sales, marketing, and content professionals share examples of great content marketing – DA 48

Altushost.com – $500 Per Month Marketing Budget – How Would You Spend It?DA 45

Businessadvice.co.uk – Fraud lessons: How the owner of one ecommerce platform is fighting payment fraud on a daily basis – DA 32

 

Stats

  • Pitches sent – 20
  • Time spent on each pitch (approx) – 10 minutes
  • Total time spent – 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Comments/links placed – 5
  • Success rate – 25%
  • Minutes per link – 40 
  • Average DA of link – 55.4

 

 

Takeouts and top #JournoRequest tips

  • Check comments before sending – The easier you make it for the journalist to cut and paste your comments the greater your chances of success. Be sure to spell/grammar check your copy before sending.
  • Don’t ask specifically for links – Include links strategically in your comment or in a bio but don’t demand them. In all of the examples listed above the links were implemented as sent without request.
  • If you don’t have any genuine insight, don’t respond – Don’t waste your time, or theirs, by commenting on things you have little comprehension of.
  • Utilise the knowledge of your team – If you have a member of your team who is qualified to comment, refer the request on. This article was commented on by my colleague who is experienced in payment fraud.
  • Offer leverage – By offering to share published work with your own social media audience, you can make yourself more attractive to publishers.

 

Image Credit: ‘Land of the Tabloids‘ courtesy of Daniel Novta

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The truth about duplicate content

There are many myths and rumours surrounding duplicate content. In this post we’ll separate the fact from the fiction in terms of its potential impact on your website.

What is ‘duplicate content’?

Where better to start than with Google’s definition?

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

• Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
• Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
• Printer-only versions of web pages”

There is a common misconception that any amount of duplication on a web page is a bad thing – this is not the case. Generally, some duplicate content is OK if the source is credited, adds value and it doesn’t make up a disproportionate amount of your content.

The quoted copy above is a good example of this, we are not passing this off as our own opinion, we are very clearly referencing and linking to the original source.

So what’s wrong with duplicate content?

Problems with duplicate content arise if its intent is seen as malicious. Once upon a time, black hat SEO practitioners could copy content across sites to manipulate search engine rankings. But algorithms are much smarter now, so having a large amount of duplicate content on your site will do more hard than good.

Also, if your site has a significant amount of duplicate content, search engines will have the following problems:

– They won’t know which version(s) to show in search results – and what order to rank them in.
– They won’t know which version of the content to include/exclude from their results.
– With internal duplication in particular, search engines won’t know if they should direct the link metrics to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions – essentially diluting the ‘link juice’. But if the content is on only one URL, each link will point to that single page, enhancing its authority.

Can you be penalised by Google for using duplicate content?

There’s a common myth floating around that you can receive a formal penalty for duplicate content. However, in a recent video, Lipattsev was adamant that if Google discovers your site’s content isn’t unique and doesn’t rank your page above a competing page, it isn’t a penalty – it’s simply Google trying to give the end user the best experience. Depending on the search terms and the quality of your content, your page containing duplicate content could appear higher in another relevant search.

In the following video, Cutts makes it clear that duplicate content won’t raise a red flag with the search engine giant, unless it is spammy or involves keyword stuffing.

Although you may not be penalised by Google for duplicate content specifically, there are issues surrounding duplication which can hurt your rankings – namely the three points mentioned earlier.

Google and the other search engines love uniqueness, added value and high quality content, so sites providing this will be rewarded, while sites providing a high amount of copied content won’t be.

What about plagiarism?

Content scraping is not protected by copyright law if the person who’s using the content on their site gives credit to the original source. However, if an acknowledgement of the source is not included, this is classed as plagiarism; if you’re the victim, you could file a Digital Millennium Copyright complaint against the person who has stolen your content. Take a look at this real-life story of website plagiarism, including steps you might want to take if you’re in a similar situation.

How can you avoid duplicate content issues?

Although duplicate content may not be as deadly as many people believe, it’s still important to take steps to minimise its negative effects on your site. As a first step, tools such as Siteliner and Copyscape can help you to discover any obvious issues. You’ll find lots of helpful, up-to-date tips from the folks at Hobo Web and if you have an ecommerce site, US agency Inflow have also produced a handy guide.

If your website contains a lot of internal duplication, which is particularly common on ecommerce sites, you should indicate preferred URLs to Google via Canonicalisation.

Image courtesy of Andrew Mager.

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SEO content best practices for 2016 and beyond

The nature of SEO has changed beyond all recognition in the past few years and, as a result, content writing has also undergone a radical shift. Low quality, keyword-stuffed articles are no longer enough to achieve those all important rankings; today you need informative, insightful content that delivers genuine value to the reader. In this article, I’m going to show you some of the best SEO practices you should be following in order to get results, both in 2016 and well into the future.

1. Keywords should be strategically included, not stuffed

Long gone are the days when businesses could stuff their websites with a few choice keywords and expect to soar on to the first page of Google in no time at all. Updates to the search engine’s algorithm, most notably Penguin in 2012 and Panda in 2014, were designed to reward sites offering genuine information to help visitors, while penalising those attempting to falsely inflate their position. So, how can you keep the Google happy and still attract the right people to your domain?

Wordstream recommend that you “include relevant keywords in a number of high-attention areas on your site”, including in page titles, meta descriptions and body copy. As your site will have hundreds, and potentially thousands, of short and long-tail keywords to target, you’ll have to be intelligent in terms of how you do this – for Searchmetrics, “Keywords are, of course, an organic part of good content, but are meaningless without relevance and structure.”

In their 2016 SEO checklist, Web Runner advise utilising several methods for keyword research, so you end up with a definitive and relevant list you can use “to provide answers to your visitors’ questions, as well as to position [yourself] as an authority who can help them if they need even more.” Integrate your keyword research into your existing content calendar, so you are focusing on a few key terms for each piece of content, rather than over-extending and trying to cram everything in in an artificial manner. As long as you’ve done your homework and your content includes a smattering of key search terms in all the right places, you’re abiding by the rules and should start to see evidence of success sooner rather than later.

2. Let the link juice flow

Links have always been an important factor in determining the provenance and relevance of a site, but the way in which search engines view linking has changed over the years. In 2016, it’s vital that your content contains a mixture of internal links to other articles or pages on your domain, to help visitors navigate through your site, and external links to authority sites. For your audience, this shows evidence of where you got your information from, but in terms of SEO, external links are a powerful ranking factor.

Internal links – According to Forbes, “the number of internal links on high-ranking pages has increased since 2014.”  However, as with most current SEO best practices, the key here is quality, not quantity: links should be provided in an intelligent and non-intrusive way, “ensuring that the user stays on the page and is satisfied.” KISSMetrics recommend not over-optimising by including keyword-rich anchor text; instead, links should be spread naturally, over longer anchors.

External links – Link juice is a term used by SEO specialists to communicate the increased authority granted to sites receiving lots of links from other sites. Although the benefit to your ranking will naturally come from other websites liking your content and deciding to link to it, you should always be linking to authoritative sites yourself; outbound links to toxic sites could see you penalised. Again, differentiate your anchor text, and make sure the reader can find value in whatever it is you’re linking to.

3. Include headings and sub-headings & use tags correctly

Large blocks of unbroken text are a big no-no in modern SEO. Just as your audience is likely to be disconcerted when confronted with a huge body of text, search engines also struggle to extract the main points of a long post with no discernible structure. An easy way around this is to incorporate headings and sub-headings into your content, as plenty of SEO experts, such as Yoast, recommend.

Headings and sub-headings are a useful way of including variations of your key search terms, enabling people to find your site, but again, you should ensure that any titles you do include are relevant to the copy itself and guide the reader through your content. Header tags should also be used correctly – Google itself recommends “multiple heading sizes in order to create a hierarchical structure for your content” – which, if you’re using HTML, involves you knowing the difference between H1 and H6 tags.

4. Aim for longer posts

Ten years ago, 300 word posts were considered long and effective, in terms of SEO. In 2016, however, the benchmark is around five times that length, with Martin Laetsch recommending a focus on long-term content, between 1,200 and 1,500 words, as ideal. John Lincoln found that longer articles targeting competitive keywords rank higher and attract more backlinks, while Google’s own Pandu Nayak has said that one of the key thought processes behind the Panda update was “to help users find in-depth articles.”

It’s not a given, but as long as you’re following the three SEO best practice tips outlined above, you could well see more benefit in posting a weekly 1,500 word blog than you would from daily 300 word offerings.

Key takeaways

• Research and organically include keywords in your content to please a human audience, not search engine bots.

• Internal links help readers and search engines navigate through your site, while external links build authority – so use them!

• Always break up content into easy-to-read chunks with relevant headings and sub-headings containing a selection of your target keywords.

• In modern SEO, long-form content is king: the more in-depth you can go with your topic, the better.

These are just a few on-page SEO tips to guide your content writing over the next few months and beyond – do you have any further suggestions?

Image courtesy of Andy Roberts

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Drive more traffic with this simple, 4 step SEO content audit

Continually reviewing and improving your on-site content is an integral part of any SEO campaign. In this post, I’m going to show you how you can keep on top of things by providing a step-by-step guide for auditing your pages, identifying what’s working and what isn’t and targeting areas for improvement.

Step 1: Gather your site’s content using Screaming Frog

In order to perform an effective SEO content audit on your site, you’ll first have to gather all of your content. The best way to do this is to download Screaming Frog, which will scan your site’s URLs and analyse pages from an SEO perspective, saving you browsing through each page manually.

After Screaming Frog has completed its crawl through your site – this could take a few minutes, depending on how much content your site contains – filter as necessary and export the URLs and page titles you want to check to a spreadsheet; leaving plenty of columns free – you’ll need these to add the ‘SEO data points’ that you’re going to be analysing later.

There are many different data points you could consider. In his guide for Quicksprout, Neil Patel recommends creating columns for:

  • URLs
  • Date Audited
  • Title
  • Description
  • Content
  • Keyword
  • Alt Tags
  • Last Updated
  • Internal Links

Feel free to add and delete columns as appropriate.

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Step 2: Pull in data from Google Analytics to work out what you’re doing well

For the next step, you’ll need to sign in to Google Analytics. Navigate to ‘All Pages’ (Behavior > Site Content > All Pages in the toolbar) so you can obtain a list of your site’s most popular pages. As Patel highlights, “this will help you audit your most important pages first… [giving] you results as soon as possible.” Narrow or expand your dataset using the filters and, when you’re happy with the selection, export to a new page in your spreadsheet.

You should now have a list of your content, in descending order in terms of performance, with the following data: page views, average time on page, entrances, bounce rate, and exit percentage. Kristi Hines suggests doing this so you get an insight into what you’re doing right on your top performing content; you can then apply this to the rest of the pages you’re auditing or optimise further.

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Step 3: Analysing your pages

Now comes the difficult part: going through each page on your site in order to determine its effectiveness. There’s no quickfire way of doing this, you’ll simply have to trawl through each page, analysing content in terms of the ‘SEO data points’ mentioned earlier and make a record of how each page performs – several sources, including DynoMapper, recommend grading content on an A to F scale, with pages ranked ‘A’ being the very best and requiring little improvement and those awarded D, E, or F meriting action, which I’ll come to later.

As a minimum, you should analyse the following:

Page titles and URLs – Page titles and URLs should be unique, containing a maximum of 65 characters and, ideally, the keyword you’re targeting on that page.

Page description – If you’re using WordPress as your CMS, download Yoast’s excellent SEO plugin to make the auditing process easier. The plugin flags up missing aspects of your on-page SEO with a red light, so you should easily be able to edit your auditing spreadsheet accordingly. Page descriptions should be 160 characters or fewer, and should adequately convey to your audience what your content is about.

  • Content – Check each piece of content to determine if it’s relevant and insightful to your audience, grammatically flawless and well laid-out.
  • Keywords – Content should contain a selection of your targeted long-tail keywords, so ensure you have this information to hand at this stage of the auditing process.
  • Alt tags

 – Images should be under 100KB to minimise page loading times, but alt text should also be filled out. Remember: search engines can’t ‘look at’ an image the way humans do, so you need to tell the bots what’s included in the picture with a descriptive tag containing relevant keywords.
  • Internal links – Content should contain at least three links to other pages or blogs on your site, as well as external links, if possible.

If your page is missing any of the above, make sure you flag it up in the corresponding column of your spreadsheet. Moz’s exhaustive guide lists other aspects of your content you can examine for SEO, but how far you go is up to you.

Step 4: Actioning the changes required

The whole SEO content auditing process is worthless if you don’t take any actions to remedy the faults you’ve found. 

Remember the rating scale we talked about before? A good starting point in terms of recommended actions would be to either rewrite, remove, or optimise any pages which scored a D or less. The elements in Step 3 are fairly easy to change (if your page is lacking a meta description, include one, fix any broken links or images etc.); just remember that, if you’re removing pages or changing URLs, you should redirect the user accordingly.

Set yourself a deadline to implement the changes, and also outline the date you’re going to perform your next audit, so you can deduce how effective the process has been. As long as you’ve been thorough, and you’ve done what you said you would, you should see results.

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