I wholeheartedly agree with Patrick Stox: A singular viral marketing campaign isn’t going to drive consistent organic search growth.
What I’d like to shed light on is the statement that “SEOs may overvalue links from media sites. They really don’t seem to have much impact.”
Hey @patrickstox @ahrefs 👋 I strongly disagree with the claim that "SEOs may overvalue links from media sites. They really don’t seem to have much impact." I have a dozen case studies to prove it and would love to contribute a post to juxtapose these results. https://t.co/pE0pex9xlE— Kelsey Libert (@KelseyLibert) April 4, 2023
Elusive, one-off viral marketing campaigns can help you earn media coverage and content syndication for years.
But, virality isn’t a perfect formula — consistent, quality execution is.
After producing over 5,000 Content Marketing campaigns in the last decade, my Co-Founders and I adopted the 80/20 principle to educate our clients: roughly 80% of your links will be driven by 20% of our campaigns.
However, while viral campaigns generate excitement, it’s the consistent base hits that drive site authority and organic search rankings.
We’ve all seen agencies and individuals sharing their viral wins, but what type of results actually drive organic search rankings?
What benchmarks should you be aiming for and measuring your team against?
Here’s what our average “baseball field” looks like in real life for two recent client renewals in the lifestyle and technology verticals:
How to read those tables:
By consistently earning high-authority publisher coverage and industry-relevant links, you can signal to Google that your site is a trusted authority in your vertical.
Beyond the SEO value, these content marketing campaigns also increase your brand awareness, authority, engagement, and conversions.
While clients in more niche and less competitive verticals can quickly establish their site authority by producing 6-12 PR link building campaigns over the course of a year, clients with larger budgets in more competitive verticals typically invest in building a defensible backlink portfolio that drives consistent growth over the course of several years.
In the example above, Paychex began working with Fractl in March 2016 and has renewed annually, producing over 40 campaigns that earned the following KPIs:
Here’s a small sample of the links we earned on sites with a Domain Authoririty > 90:
This resulted in 195% increase in organic traffic:
The value of PR links is a never ending debate among SEOs, but I believe that debate is primarily rooted in whether the links you go after are:
While there are hundreds of studies and authorities who speak to these themes, these are my go-to third-party sources for understanding the value of how high-authority links drive organic search rankings:
Now that you understand the value of earning media links, let’s talk about how you can do it!
When we first launched Fractl in 2012, content marketing was in its infancy, with roughly 20k monthly global searches.
Nowadays, content marketing tops 210k searches per month!
Why should this influence your methodologies?
According to our digital PR research, 10 years ago, top-tier writers received upwards of 100 pitches per day.
Today, those same writers receive up to 1,000 pitches per day 🤯
That means it’s incredibly important for your digital PR strategies to stand out in a flooded inbox with an increasing threat of AI overload.
What’s the best way to do that?
Executing a diverse methodology set beyond what your competitors are capable of so that you produce something truly unique, authoritative, and newsworthy that high-authority writers are eager to cover.
Our favorite content marketing methodologies generally fall into these three buckets:
By scraping data from popular social networks via a social media API, or even public APIs, you can use massive (free) data sets to analyze real-time consumer sentiment on breaking news or evergreen interest in certain topics.
High-authority publishers love this because you’re creating new, breaking research that represents the masses.
These are some of our favorite APIs for content marketing research:
BuzzSumo also has a great marketing API, which lets you analyze up to 8 billion pieces of content and 300 trillion social media engagements.
We used the Spotify API to analyze “Work From Home” playlists, including 26k songs by 6k different artists.
Our goal was to identify the artists, genres, and songs that people enjoyed for WFH, with a granular analysis of instrumentals, energy, tempo, and key.
Government agencies and nonprofit organizations typically store a wealth of national data that is released on a regular cadence; either monthly, quarterly, or annually.
These reports provide a wealth of data points waiting to be analyzed, with the perk of coming from an incredible authoritative source.
These are some of our favorite government data sets:
We analyzed datasets from the TomTom Traffic Index Ranking, INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, and NHTSA Fatality and Injury Reporting System to find out which American cities have the worst drivers.
Consumer surveys are one of the easiest content marketing methodologies to execute, which means you need to ensure you’re adding value beyond what’s already been done.
While surveys are great for broad evergreen analyses, we also aim to execute surveys rapidly to add value based on the breaking news cycle.
“The Great Resignation” occurred in the aftermath of the pandemic, with 47 million Americans quitting their jobs in 2021 to find better work/life balance, pay, and benefits.
Having personally experienced several boomerang employees in this timespan, we pondered, how many people were left unhappy with their career change?
We surveyed 1k people to find out.
...that would garner interest from writers at mainstream news publishers and industry-leading sites.
Our most successful clients allow us to produce tangential campaign ideas focused on topics that have:
The more on-brand our campaign ideas become, the more difficult it is for publishers to perceive our findings as newsworthy research vs. sponsored content, which is a crucial element in our collective success.
The more on-brand your message becomes, the more likely it is you’ll be directed to a publisher’s sponsored content team.
Since sponsored content links aren’t as valuable in Google’s eyes, it’s incredibly important that what you pitch is perceived as newsworthy, valuable information to the writer’s readership.
At Fractl, newsworthy content ideation is a team sport where our Data Journalists and Digital PR team come together to brainstorm the most interesting research we could conduct on behalf of our client.
All of our ideas are evaluated against our SUCCESs rubric, which helps our team measure the potential newsworthiness of a campaign:
... visualizing the most newsworthy findings in an easily digestible format.
When we first launched Fractl, we would pitch interesting statistics from our research and request that writers link back to our client as the source. Oftentimes, publishers would ask:
To solve these challenges, we created a page on our client’s site that would host all of this information along with the most interesting findings from our research, dubbed a “campaign landing page.” The page would include:
By providing all of this newsworthy information in an organized and easily digestible format, we created an asset that top-tier publishers were eager to link back to.
...and craft a pitch that distills the newsworthy hooks that are relevant to their audience.
Building a media list is incredibly tedious and time-consuming, especially if you want to avoid the spray-and-pray approach that could harm your brand affinity with publishers.
I’ve used numerous PR tools, including Cision, Prowly, MuckRack, and others, but the great challenge has always been identifying the most relevant writers.
BuzzSumo has just released a new journalist database and Media List tool that helps you find beat-relevant journalists creating content right now.
At Fractl, we aim for 70% of our digital PR pitches to be personalized to the individual writer to help us break through the noise and foster lasting relationships.
The other 30% of the time, we attempt to scale our outreach based on our data’s relevance to the breaking news cycle.
In every pitch, our goal is to synthesize our research in a way that makes it relevant to multiple verticals, expanding the overall reach of our campaign and the potential link volume.
When New York City Public Schools banned ChatGPT in December 2022, we helped our client rapidly produce a newsjacking campaign where we surveyed educators and students to understand the thoughts, fears, and potential implications of this drastic shift in education policy.
Vertical relevance: Education, parenting, technology, and political writers.
Media Links: The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, USA Today, EdWeek, SF Chronicle, Independent, Yahoo!, TechSpot, Entrepreneur, Futurism, The Guardian, Silicon Republic, and close to 300 sites across two executions.
How did we earn this press?
We featured the breaking news, highlighted the forthcoming debate on our national education policy, and distilled our takeaways that presented both sides of the discussion.
While I’m a huge advocate for high-touch digital PR, there are occasions when you need to move rapidly with the news cycle that necessitates scale. This above pitch format has been successful for over a decade because it:
Every single pitch we send follows that format, though the intro varies based on our opportunities for relationship building.
Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of writers copy our pitches verbatim for their stories, demonstrating how your pitch structure can be essential to their success.
Instead of investing in a singular short-term KPI (say, a burst of viral links), you need to invest in content strategies that will add value to your target market at multiple stages in the buyer’s journey, while also earning a natural, diverse, authoritative backlink portfolio that establishes algorithmic trust signals and boosts overall site rankings.
Typically, 70% of our organic search strategy is focused on developing primary research for data journalism campaigns, which our digital PR team pitches to earn high-authority links from mainstream news and industry-leading publishers.
The other 30% of Fractl’s organic search strategy focuses on developing a hub and spoke content strategy, where we shift our sights to more brand-centric FAQs and search terms, building out educational content pathways and tools to drive longtail rankings and conversions.
Through this harmony of SEO, content marketing, and digital PR strategies, we’ve been able to deliver consistent organic search growth for our clients for over a decade, and now you know how to do it, too.
For more ace PR tips, check out some other related content:
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