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Hi, I am Lexi Mills,
Head of Digital at Dynamo PRO. Ask Me Anything about PR, SEO, Social,
I am a passionate believer
that PR and SEO work beautifully together, if you have had problems making this
happen, want to ask questions about how to make these types of teams work
effectively together, tactics, techniques or anything else about the above
fields let me know.
I want to ask what strategies you will prefer for seo in post penguin situation
Hi Arnold, I use the same strategies I used before penguin, finding way to build natural links, not natural looking but truly natural links. I also make sure that I get my content to a full tier of media and bloggers. Having specific media material for each group is important, media will want more photographs and interviews where as bloggers want something unique. Having a tool kit to help a variety of people cover your story/content is key to getting a good diverse link portfolio.
When I am working on a client who is recovering from being hit by an update, you first need to clean up the link portfolio and then be VERY careful about every link you build afterwards.
Thanks for this Lexi!
Hi Lexi, thanks for taking questions. How would you build a linking strategy for a Pharma company? And yes their legal department's Not-OK-word list might as well anything found on wikipedia.org.
Hi Lexi! It's great to see you here at Inbound.org! I loved your talk at BrightonSEO - for anyone who hasn't seen it, check it out here: http://www.brightonseo.com/2012/04/lexi-mills/
I have a few questions if that's ok... :-)
At BrightonSEO you said that asking to be "accredited" for a link was a good way to ask for a link (rather than directly asking for it). Have you tested and/or found any other ways of asking that have worked well?
What is the best link you ever earned and what's the story behind it?
What's your funniest and/or most bizarre link acquisition story?
Hi Steve, So pleased you enjoyed Brighton SEO, always a good event! I always make sure that we put good quality content on our clients sites so that journalists can link to the website to enhance their story. Some stories just can't be told without referencing a specific webpage, such as this one we did last month:
Thanks for your answer, Lexi. That's good advice, although I meant more about the language used and how it corresponds to the reader's psychology, e.g. alternatives to saying "accredited." Also if you get the chance to answer the other two questions then that'd be awesome :-)
Hi Steve, sure I often ask if they can 'reference' the client/website/content. Sometimes I ask if they can help the reader find the website being talked about by linking to it. If the journalist seems to not like that idea of linking I let them know that it doesn't have to be followed, just something to help orientate readers and help them find more information.
When it comes to best links earned, I think that depends on the situation. Some of my biggest achievements have been getting links for content that was not media link worthy. I worked with an inforgraphic a few years ago like that, it was super hard to get any links for. However I got chatting to an editor at MSN and we decided it would be more fun animated. We then paid for a dev guy to animate it (£50) and got it up on MSN. I was very happy with that.
I also made a TV show with the BBC a few years back to build a link! I was proud of that, I felt like I walked the extra mile on that one for sure!
Here the link to the TV clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13947771
What I think is important here is that it is actually not clear which is the link we were trying to get in this article. That's what I think makes great PR SEO/ linkbuilding all links don't look natural they are in fact natural.
"Reference" is good, I like that - it's not like you're even asking them to credit you for it, removing any suggestion of selfishness, if that makes sense... Thanks! :-)
cool no problem! To be honest these days I spend more time on creating the onsite content to support my outreach work and as such most of the time the links come without having to ask, because the content is worth linking to and enhances the story for the reader.
Steve I did another presentation this year at Brighton SEO that might be useful to you. http://www.brightonseo.com/lexi-mills/ slides are here: http://www.slideshare.net/leximills1/brighton-seo-2013-lexi-mills-seo-pr
Thanks for doing this.
Do you have any tips for making first contact and establishing a relationship with key people in the press? Email is obviously easily ignored, and it can be difficult to get time on the phone with the right people in my experience.
Events can always be useful, Gorkana (media database people) do morning breakfasts where you can meet media and they do a presentation on what they are looking for content and story wise. They are super good! I always try an engage with some media on twitter or even just sending them an email when you have seen an article they wrote that you liked. A friend of mine sent an email to an editor saying how much she liked an article a journalist on her team wrote, both the editor and journalist were thrilled, I think they are now friends for life!
Also never give up! Keep an eye on twitter to find out when they are less busy (when they are tweeting lots they are often less busy and willing to take calls). I always ask if the journalist has a few minutes spare rather than just launching into a pitch. If they say no then ask when would be better to call back.
Thanks for the replies!
If your work involves getting enterprise-level PR and SEO teams to begin communicating and collaborating, have you found anything that's consistently effective to start this process? Especially, if some of the SEO team might be agency-side and some might be in-house. Thanks.
Hi David, Sure, I always start by giving both PR and SEO teams an intro training session in the other field. That way when you get them all together they understand the terminology each team uses and what the contraints are with there jobs. I am always amazed at how effective this is!
Hi Lexi, thanks for taking part in this AMA.
I've noticed a recent move by big brands to hire ex journalists for their content marketing, as SEO's can often come with (in their words) "too much baggage" or a focus on "over optimising". What can we can an industry do to change this misconception, and / or make our skillset more in-line with ex journalists?
Hi Mike, It's not just big brands hiring ex journos, PR agencies do it too! They key thing is to start with the consumer in mind and then review and edit in SEO requirements. Rather than start with SEO in mind and then work in consumer elements.
I often get asked what SEO's can do to understand what journalist like to write about, either so SEO s can pitch them or so SEOs can write content that is as engaging, my answer is always the same read the news and lot sof it. at least a few days a month get about 6 papers in and look at how each one reports slightly differently on each story. If anyone does that for 6 months they will drastically improve their writting and link-building skills.
Thank you for this opportunity.
I'm quite new to the industry and was wondering if you could recommend me a few things.
What blogs do you usually read to inform yourself and to stay updated about the industry?
Also, what events do you usually attend?
Hi Irma, lovely to meet you! Well your doing the right thing, getting online and speaking to industry people whether that be comment on articles or in linkedin groups all are super useful. I am signed up to the Search Engine Journal linkedin group, follow inbound.org, SEOmoz and lots of other search people on twitter. I would also recommend attending a few meet up groups and conferences. The SEO crowd is a pretty friendly bunch you will soon get to know a few faces! I try to goto a mixture of events, so borader marketing talks, social media events and keep an eye out on sites like PR Week for really good campaigns. I discovered this through PR Week: http://www.gnomeexperiment.com/ a really fantastic project from both an SEO and PR perspective.
Thank you very much for the insight. I will definitely sign up to the search engine journal and read the 'blogs' you suggested.
I have some more questions if you don't mind. How do you usually approach digital influencer? What approach works best for you e.g. email, twitter, phone, meeting? And how do you find the right people for your projects to reach out to?
Hi Irma, I always look for their personal blogs, most often people with say how they like to be contacted. If you can find that information then follow it exactly! If you can't find that information, just send a brief introductory email and follow them on twitter. I would then call them when you have a story/content that you think they will like.
Oh BTW Rebecca Lee (@RebeccaLee1010) works with me and says hello. I think you both were at university together!
Oh, that's so cool. Say hi to her too. And thank you very much for your answers. They are very helpful!
In your opinion what's the biggest thing that PR's are missing in SEO? And vice versa?
Hello Patrick! I think most PR's dont have time or budget to consider what onsite content they could build/ host to further enhance the SEO value from their their PR campaigns. So in some ways I think this needs to come from the client side, they need to ask for it before we can dedicate time to it. I think many SEO's have a lot on their plate and don't always have the head space to sit and think about what could their client provide to the media that is unique to them. I often get emails asking me for help placing bylines or content that just isn't original enough or doesn't play to the clients strengths. Knowing what the media will like is tough and a skill that takes a long time to learn so in some ways I think it is best to get a PR or journalist to work on this section, then get the SEO to review the planned content and activity to determine how best it can be leverged for SEO.
Thanks Lexi, very useful indeed! How are you finding the change from Distilled to Dynamo? Good work on Bathrooms.com too :)
How do you go about finding the right journalists and editors to contact, and how do you then make initial contact?
For example, do you use any tools to locate email addresses?
How do you then maintain your relationship with that journalist?
Hi Elle-Rose, Finding the right people to contact for a story is tough, there is no doubt about it. Over the years you get to know what certain publications and journalist want which makes it a lot easier and quicker. I use Gorkana for help researching publications and contact details. Also sometimes I just ring the news or planning desk/ department (like technology or business) and just say, "I have a story that I think is great for your publication but I am not sure who to send it over to, would you mind if I told you a bit about it?" Almost always you get a good response.
Always say thank you if someone covers your content/ story. It takes no time at all to send a thank you, I actually try to spend as much time thinking about how best to say thank you as I don thinking about the pitch itself. I send them videos, pictures, jokes anything to let them know I am grateful. This bit of effort will be remembered. I al also a fan of just dropping my contacts a quick email if I see a story they would be interested in, even if it is not one of my clients.
When it comes to finding contacts, I call and ask, check their twitter profiles, personal websites and often just guess the format, for big publications they are pretty standardised.
Thanks for all the help Lexi! :) x
I know a lot of us like to talk about our big wins (me included) but I think there is often a lot to learn from our mistakes.
What is the worst thing that has happened during a content PR outreach campaign?
Hi Danny, thats a tough one....typos for sure! When your working very fast they can happen far too easily and media hate typos and bad English, so that always upsets me. Addressing emails to the wrong person can also be pretty embarrassing, but were all human, you just have to apologise and beg forgiveness! I jumped onto a project last year that wasn't going well, I worked for two days and two nights with only a few hours sleep in between to get it ready to take to media. So I was feeling pretty delicate and when I Called story into one news desk the guy who answered said, "That's rubbish" and then hung up. I was pretty upset by his rudeness. So I drank some coffee and called back, hoping someone different would answer, they did and the publication ran the story in print and online. It just goes to show if you believe in something you have to be tough and keep at it!
Ouch that guy on the newsdesk was harsh - but impressed you took it all in your stride. I think having that confidence in your story/content is what keeps you going in the face of such harsh rejection.
Knowing that an publisher is a team of individuals is also key - often it can just take time to find the right person.
Thanks for the honest answer.
More people need to talk about their mistakes... might have to do a curated blog post X worst mistakes made by awesome content marketers :)
I'm more than happy to help with that- were all human. :) I think nerves stop too many people from getting their content to really succeed.
I am sure I must have some worse ones..let me think!
Hi Lexi - thanks for doing this!
I guess each story, the way it comes to being and the way it's told is unique and different, but do you have any steps or processes or tips for developing out the story?
Hi Ed, yes sure.
Firstly: I try to think of how I make something relevant to a consumer, what information do they need? What is their state of mind when trying to find information about something, are they stressed and need a giggle, or do they need a tool that aggregates information?
Most important I want whatever I create to be a good talking point within a community whether that be at work or in the pub. I try to think about how someone would talk about it and incorporate that language into my content style. So for example if it would be a serious point of a conversation, I want the content to look serious and trust worthy. If it is suposed to be fun, then it should be bright with more relaxed copy.
The images should optimise for being shared on the right social platforms too, so fit well on facebook for more fun social sharing but if its more business focused then you want the images to look good on linked in. Irrespective of the target the headline/title should share well on twitter.
Thanks for joining us! I believe in the same approach when it comes to natural link-building.
What do you think about replacing profile links (on a website) to a Google+ profile instead when pitching to the news media? Which do you think is better?
I didn't see you on the "Where my ladies at" thread?
My question is how is it being a girl in a pretty boy dominated industry, I know Jennifer made a couple points on this but I was wondering what it was like from your perspective and working at a firm rather than a service provider?
Not sure there are many pretty boys here Charles. ;)
But the thing about PR is that I found it to be a female dominated industry, well in Australia 80%+ of the teams seem to be female. But with SEO it is the opposite 80%+ male.
Hi Victor, I think it really depends on your objectives. I have some clients where we are targeted on building Google plus profiles for their experts and in this case I put their Google plus profiles into their bylines or when they are quoted. When these profiles are setup correctly these Google plus links add value to the journalists story because they further substantiate why that person is being quoted or why their byline is of value. Hence it contributes to the Win Win situation that I believe should underpin all SEO work.
I have spoken to a few media editors about this and most are very happy to reference a Google Plus profile, however some media are not as aware of the importance of a Google plus profile and how it adds value to their publication, so it can be harder to place these references then. Of course building a clients link portfolio is also important so the decision of which link is preferable needs to be discussed in advance of activity happening.
By replacing the links on the website you are encouraging more links from your outreach efforts to goto the Google Plus account, however you will still encourage links direct to the profile pages as well.
Have you ever built links for local area, to improve local results? I know that getting links from local sources will be very effective way to improve rankings.
And what is your opinion about Matt Cutts' words about not counting links on PR news. How can Google detect it?
Hi Serbay, Thanks for your questions. Building local links can be very effective however there are other SEO techniques that can help. I am a big fan of local link-building because when your creating regionally targeted PR/Content you know its going to be of interest to local people where as when your targeting nationals there is less certainty because of the national news agenda. Equally getting good links from good local site not only boosts your SEO but is more likely to feed you relevant traffic, which is what links should be about!
I agree with the new updates aimed at wiping out the value of over optimised links in press releases, they have no REAL value to anyone and therefore should not count. I have always said that press releases should have only relevant useful links in them.
Useful to the journalist who is writing an article on what should be your news worthy content presented in your release and links that add value to the consumer reading the journalist or bloggers articles. I don't think this update will do any damage to PR people doing good PR, I suspect that is may impact some people who think that filling their release with anchor text links is a good thing to do, however it may spur a few more people to get to grips with SEO and hopefully ring up their clients SEOs and start working more closely together.
I wrote an article for PR week on the new update: http://prweekblog.prweek.com/2013/08/09/no-google-didnt-just-kill-pr-agencies/
I also did an interview with econsultancy on the subject, which may be useful to you: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/63211-has-google-really-just-killed-the-pr-industry
I still stand by newswires as one of the ways of getting some of your great content seen by the right people. I have had great success using PR newswire to help me reach media in new markets where I know fewer media.
Thanks for great answer. It helps me a lot.
Thanks for the name check Lexi (FD: I work for PR Newswire). I'm actually glad we have concrete guidance from Google on how they want links in press releases to be treated. In the more usual fog of half-truths and contradictory interpretations it can be difficult to give customers clear advice and too easy for people to fall into bad habits.
The points you make in the links above about PR being a lot more than press releases or SEO, and the overlap between the skills of a good content marketer and the skills of a good PR officer are spot on. The PR industry was built on understanding the needs of their audiences, building relationships with influencers and creating valuable content. More than ever these skills are crucial to anyone working in communications - and these days, that's pretty much everyone.
Hi Lexi, may you take a look into my post: http://www.inbound.org/discussion/view/traffic-drop-to-the-site-50-without-reasonSo maybe you can discover some potential here?
My specialism is not technical SEO, so I don't think I am the best person to advise you on this. I tend to leave that to the many SEO ninjas who are fantastic at this.
At a first glance I notice that there is very little text above the page fold or even on the page in general. Also I can see 4,893 total links with only 51 linking root domains. I would normally expect that ratio to be lower on total links side. I would really need to take a deeper look at the site and the link profile to make any firm conclusions though. It might be worth getting yourself a technical site review. Depending on your budget you might want hunt around for a good freelancer or possibly contact an agency.
Hi Lexi - Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. You work in a really interesting niche (PR for tech/apps etc) that I am personally fascinated about.
More of a personal curiosity but why did your agency decide to use Tumblr as a platform? I personally love Tumblr but have never seen an agency use it as their main site. Way to break the mold!
The directors positioned the agency well, finding great PR's who can speak technical language and know their consumer press well is tough but is core to what we do. These days we also work on lots of Kickstarter projects, some B2B and of course projects where the clients website is at the centre of their business and therefore require both PR and SEO like bathrooms.com. I've always been a bit geeky so this mix fits me well, I also have an odd passion for finance apps and websites, kind of random I know, but its a very fascinating space!
We have been planning a site rebuild for quite some time. We are fortunate to have experienced very fast growth of the agency over the last few years, which still continues. Hence focus on our clients has been our main priority, which means the redesign has been postponed on several occasions. The site works well for us in terms of functionality, but keep an eye for our new one over the next few months. :)
Very cool. Thanks so much Lexi!
Thanks for doing this, I have a few questions not sure if you have answered them above in the sea of comments.1. What ways do you find best to training a PR company on SEO, what methods have you used in the past, from my experience working with PR teams they are always VERY busy. I have done the whole 101's in the past but I find its hard to get traction unless you have some one who is 100% on board, we even worked on a joint SEO/PR project for a client in the past which was good fun...2. What are your thoughts on using online PR sites like PR Log, PR Web, PR Wire to push out releases, Google has been pushing some negative points on them recently. What are your thoughts on this?3. What are your thoughts on branded or generic anchor text use in PR push's do you endorse it yes/no?
Hi James, all really good questions.
1.) I have trained both in house and agency PR teams around the world and I always try and train people in small groups, everyone learns better from hearing other peoples questions and it makes them aware that they are not alone in learning this new area. I think the most important aspects of SEO can be taught in an initial 3 hour session. Try pick an afternoon when they are not launching something. Open the session by explaining to them how SEO can help them, then explain the basics of how the internet and Search work. Another great tactic is to buil a tool that provides SEO metrics for their PR reporting, that way they can see the SEO value of what they are doing and will become more interested in the metrics and how they can effect them. Also try sending an email or two ou to the team when one of them gets a great SEO hit with their PR work. To make things fair I often get the SEO teams to put PR metrics onto their reports too, it really help build understanding between teams. The bottom line is that all information needs to be relevant to them and their day to day job. I have found opening with the line, "I want to talk you through the foundations of SEO...this will help you day to day and put you in a posistion to earn more in the future" that tends to be pretty effective.
2.) I think some wires can be helpful for PR purposes, especially when you have time sensitive news. I would avoid PR Web and any of the super low priced services, they are not well respected by media and so don't help you get your content seen. I have tested hundred of wires over the last few years but to be honest PR Newswire and Business wire are still the best I have found.
I wrote an article for PR Week on the new update: http://prweekblog.prweek.com/2013/08/09/no-google-didnt-just-kill-pr-agencies/
3.) If a link is not relevant and a good user experience then your PR work will look spammy and no one will write about it, so you get no PR or SEO value. I always push for natural relevant links in PR work, even if you have to create pages and content for this purpose. I always include a brand link because the media will want to know more about who is sending them this news, so that link is a good user experience. Again anchor text can very easily look spammy, your better off not pushing for it to go into PR work and letting them have the best quality PR content which will help them get coverage and hopefully a good branded or relevant link, as aposed to having an anchor text filled email/ press release that no one wants to cover, hence no one wins!
Hi Lexi,Thanks for taking the time to do this. I really enjoyed a lot of the useful info you provided in some of the above conversations. Since you mentioned Gordana as a great tool for PR, are there any other useful tools that you use regularly (just PR focused ones)?Also, in terms of pitching news releases or on-site content, how do you go about that from a planning perspective? Is it pitched prior to release on newswires or on client sites? Do you provide the complete content as reference during the initial proposition to a journalist? Or do you start discussing it with a journalist prior to completion to adjust it to what they are more interested in covering?
I'm very interested in learning more about using PR to build awareness of the company I work for.
Sadly, many people seem to think PR stands Press Release, but it obviously is much more than that.
My questions is what suggestions would you have for someone starting to explore Public Relations as an avenue for building brand awareness for businesses in typically unexciting industries, such as the one I work in (packaging)?
Hi Stephen, Firstly,theres no such thing as a boring industry, there is always something interesting and someone who will be interested! Some of my favourite projects in the past have been in debt, insurance and security tags, so trust me you will have a few things you can use! I would make sure you get hold of all of your trade publications then set up Google alerts of a bunch of keywords relating to your industry. When I start in a new area I try to read about 40 articles minimum a week that are being written about that area. You will soon get a feel for what things are interesting to media in that area. Then you need to put your thinking cap on and start to look at what is happening in your company that would be of interest to them. Where possible make the story current/ time sensitive and try to get soem exciting images to go with it. Images can make or break a story. You may also find getting a freelance PR or agency to come in a do a bit of consulting with you can help you get your head round it quicker. Feel free to give me a call at some point and we can discuss in more detail.
How to start with content marketing? Hot discussions are happening on every blog or in each post. Do you think it works with SEO? What to do to have better plan?
Hi Isha, Content marketing is certainly topical. I am a big believer in it because it has the potencial to fee din to many areas of a business, from SEO to the sales cycle right through relationship management and PR. I think the key thing is getting the priorities set amongst teams and then making sure you have someone dedicated to the task to liase with the various teams. There are some great meet up s and conference around the subject, so it worth having a look at what is going on in your area.
Do you have any tips in getting a client out of their comfort zone for trying on a creative piece of content marketing. How do you persuade them ?
Hi Arturo, That is tough, building trust is really important, then you need to need paint them a picture of what they could have, where they could be and what that would mean. I would then draw on the words on Thomas Jefferson, "“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
I am Anand Singh from India working as SEO, SMO Head with Real Estate Company i have more then 5 year of Experience in SEO and we was doing good in Real Estate from last 2 year but after penguin 2.0 my website ranking and visitor affect a lot and its down day by day ..... i did not use any spam or blackhat SEO for my website, i have 2 main website and more then 20 micro site ... so i would like to ask you "how to recover ?"and i am working hard on SMO "Is there any other lead generation method in real estate apart from SEO, SMO, PPC ? "
Hey Lexi thanks for the AMA.
My question is… What are the 3 most important things that you think would grow a social media profile's number of followers and why?
Just a quick question. Do you see big benefits in having your own customers write on your blogs their own stories and experiences of using your product and services? I don't mean your own organization 'Dynamo Pro' just in general is it deemed good PR practice to get them involved this way. We tend to give them free reign over their contributions, maybe the odd gentle nudge in emphasizing some keywords/phrase for SEO and I was wondering if you knew of others who employ this approach and found it of benefit. Or if they came across any pitfalls they had to manage carefully.
Good to see you on inbound Lexi. Casting back to the year 2011 we worked on a project together 'BBC and the data visualisation competition', not sure if you will remember. Anyway our client's interactive map didn't win but it was good fun to do.
Thanks for any input on my question.