Manage Your Link Profile with BuzzStream & LinkRisk

Today we’re excited to announce LinkRisk, the leader in backlink auditing and risk analysis, is now integrated with BuzzStream.  Now you can move data from your LinkRisk account to BuzzStream with the touch of a button, so it’s even easier to keep your link profile in tip top shape.

If you’re involved in link removal and link profile management projects, this is an integration you should definitely check out.

What’s LinkRisk?

Link Risk helps search marketers assess and manage their link profile risk. The product provides a score of risk based on links, as well as providing some workflow for auditing, investigation, and removal.

As Link Risk CEO Paul Madden explains, “ The LinkRisk score is calculated using a complex algorithm. The score itself runs from 1-1000 with 1 being good and 1000 being very bad. Every link starts at a LinkRisk score of 500 and each of the signals we detect when we analyse the link will nudge that score up or down from its starting base of 500.”

Send Links to BuzzStream from LinkRisk

You can use LinkRisk’s algorithm and BuzzStream’s outreach and collaboration capabilities to both remove your poor links, along with identifying the competition’s best links and adding those sites to your list.

To send your LinkRisk data to your BuzzStream account, log into your Link Risk account, select a website’s link profile, and choose “Profile Control Panel”.

linkrisk image 1

 

Then, you can export data into your BuzzStream account through the ‘Export’ button. You might choose to look at your riskiest links, or alternatively, your competition’s least risky links.

linkrisk image 2

Then you can use BuzzStream’s outreach and workflow capabilities to remove bad links and try to get the best links from your competitors.

More Resources

For more on BuzzStream, LinkRisk, and link profile management check out these great posts:

LinkRisk on LinkRisk and BuzzStream

How to Use BuzzStream to Clean Up Your Link Profile

Reconsideration and Link Removal Using BuzzStream

Removing a Manual Link Penalty: A Reconsideration Request Accepted By Google

 

 

 

 

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Case Study: Leveraging Video to Educate Your Market

This week’s blog post comes from Will Fraser, CEO and Co-Founder of Referral SaaSquatch. Follow him on Twitter @getFraser

When we started Referral SaaSquatch, we spent a lot of time educating the SaaS/subscription market about our platform and how we’re different from ‘competitors.’ Honestly, a lot of the questions, while valid, were the same. What is a referral program? Isn’t that an affiliate program? Can’t I build that in-house?

There was clearly an education gap and even though we were writing about it, we felt we had to build more engaging content to help educate people and streamline answering these questions. We decided to take the cue from our friends over at Moz with their great ‘Whiteboard Fridays’ campaign and started creating video content.

Why video? It’s rich content, easily consumed, and helps establish brand credibility. The concept was simple in essence, take the core lessons from our educational blog articles, then distill them into short-form explainer videos. Spend half a day talking in front of a videographer with another team member producing. Then start promotion campaigns around the content.

Easy enough right? … Not exactly? Well, let me take you through the steps that we took to make our 19 Videos to clear it up.

Video1

Image courtesy of Udemy.com

The Decision

Our strategy had consisted primarily of producing articles and promoting them on different online communities like Quora, Inbound.org, and Twitter. After a couple of months, we were clearly building a following but knew we still needed to experiment with other ways of telling our story.

We asked ourselves, ‘What’s a better way to educate our audience about referral programs?’

Although we were open to experimenting with different content, our goals remained the same: create and promote online content educating our target audience about referral programs.

Building video content was clearly the next step for us to take. Video is easy to consume on multiple platforms, rich content is more memorable than text, it’s easy to share, and can be done on a budget.

Video2

Image courtesy of udemy.com

Building the Content

Okay so we knew we had to make videos to educate our market and increase brand awareness. Now the problem became how?

How do we create video content that’s compelling, but not spend a huge amount of time and money on it? We came up with the idea to repurpose the core concepts of our blog into short 3-5 min videos, which helped immensely reduce the time required for pre-production and scripting. We had one person on the team spend an afternoon and read through our blog to come up with the outline for each video with 2-3 talking points.

Next, we scheduled our shoot, which was 3 hours in a local studio with the key responsibilities laid out like this:

Videographer: Directing – in-charge of framing the scene, audio, and lighting.

Myself: Hosting – speaking and drawing illustrations on whiteboard.

Team member: Producing – setting up each scene’s talking points, checking quality of content, water breaks.

It went off without a hitch. These are videos about things we already knew, so there wasn’t much to learn or remember for each shot. It was easy to speak with confidence. We actually got through the majority of our videos in one take.

So in three hours’ time with two breaks, we shot 19 videos in 26 takes. Not bad for our first adventure into the world of video production.

Video3

Image courtesy of Wistia.com

Distribution and Promotion

Now came the part you’re all really interested in, how do we get the word out? We have this rich content, where do we promote it?

We ended up breaking it down into a list of promotion strategies, and it came down to two ideas. One was to wrap up all the video into an E-Course for the Udemy Ed-Tech Platform and the other was to host the content ourselves with a video service like Wistia.

We liked the idea of Udemy because we could take advantage of an emerging education platform with a strong tech worker presence. Its recommendation engine and review system were both convincing factors, but there wasn’t a smooth way to move the students over to our site (read: No Lead Capture).

Hosting the videos ourselves was an interesting option, as well. We could use a tool like Wistia to perform email capture within the player. We could also promote the individual videos on our blog and social channels.

We ended up building the E-Course and creating an auto-responder email course of the 5 core videos for lead capture on our website. The course has signed up over 1,350 people and helps drive overall brand awareness – while the auto-responder course helps drive conversions to product demos and sales.

Video4

Image courtesy of Iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Activation and Community

The course has built a great way to interact with the community of students who want to talk about referral programs. They can leave reviews, and we can push company updates to the list of over 1,350 people.

Our video content helps support every interaction we have with potential clients. It fills the top of the funnel by driving lead acquisition as well as activating and nurturing our leads throughout the sales-cycle, which really helps to accelerate our growth and impact the bottom line.

Content continues to drive results for our company. Creating videos to reach our audience is a great campaign for us and we can keep re-purposing these videos to help educate and convert incoming visitors.

Conclusion

Our goal was to build more engaging content to help educate our target audience, and video ended up being a low cost, quick, and effective way to do it.The video content was created in an afternoon and continues to increase brand awareness while capturing leads and supporting every other stage of our marketing and sales funnels.

Some things to think about if you want to do this are:

  • Reuse existing educational content. You’re an expert and have probably already written about the most important things to your industry.
  • Video doesn’t have to cost a million dollars or be over produced. Just be real and make sure you get the point across.
  • Take advantage of distribution networks such as Udemy or YouTube. This is often the hardest part of any content effort.

Not every channel or medium is right for your audience, but, in our case, video helped us diversify our educational content, grow brand awareness, and increase conversion metrics.

 

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Webinar Recap: 500 Writers and Editors on How to Pitch

Perfect Pitches

Kelsey Libert, VP of Marketing, and Ryan McConagill, Promotions Supervisor, oversee the Media Relations team at Frac.tl. Libert and McConagill partnered with BuzzStream for a webinar to share exclusive research on what publishers want for content creation and media outreach. They interviewed over 500 writers, editors, and publishers to present a story about a noise:value ratio that has gotten out of whack.

Libert created a survey that helps us master the art of the perfect pitch. Here are her findings:

 

And here’s the video from the webinar:

 

Did you know: In 2014 the US department of labor announced that for every single journalist, there are 5 PR professionals beating down that writers’ door. Editorial voices are outnumbered by PR professionals by almost 5:1 and on average, PR pros earn 40% more than journalists.

Q: About how many stories do you write per day?45% of writers write one story per day
The majority of people you’re pitching to only write ONE STORY per day. These are not favorable odds. Therefore, it is imperative that you craft a perfect pitch.

Q: About how many pitches do you receive per day?

How many pitches writers receive per day

Although most writers publish one story per day, 44% of them get pitched a minimum of TWENTY TIMES per day. According to Harvard Business Review, the average worker receives 12,000 emails a year, while writers at top tier publications receive 38,000. Because of this, many writers are unsubscribing – so make sure to never put writers on mailing lists unless they have given you permission. Make sure to wait until after big conventions to follow up or send a pitch- sending one while the writer is at a convention will be a waste of time.

Q: How often do you write a story based on something that was sent through a pitch?

How often do writers write a story based off a pitch?

Although writers are inundated with pitches, only 11% often write a story based on content that was sent through a pitch. However, 45% said sometimes, so there is an opportunity for change. Here are some tips on how to find out if the writer is a perfect fit for your content…

1) You want to make sure you’re doing your research. Go through the writers’ posts  from several months back, and go through publisher’s bio.

2) Look at their twitter timelines to get a sense of their personality.

3) The Principle of Liking, based off a Northwestern Law Study states, “The degree to which we perceive another person to be similar to ourselves in traits and attitudes and to be worthy of our generosity or assistance, depends on the extent to which we perceive a personal connection with that person, no matter how trivial.”

4) Do a cursory google search for the writer.

Outreach Strategies

Q: Would you rather be pitched ideas that you can collaborate on or get a finished asset?


Would you rather be pitched ideas that you can collaborate on or get a finished asset?

STOP spamming writers with poorly matched assets. Instead, collaborate on mutually beneficial ideas. Here are some tips on how to go about collaborating…

1) Tap into existing publisher relationships to see if they would be open to collaborating.

2) Try to collaborate with editors.

3) Always use a static asset, a lot of publishers have said that their content management systems can’t handle embedding interactive content

4) Have your standard assets smaller with your option to make them bigger upon publisher requests (work with designers, many publishers can only hold content 600 pixels wide).

5) Don’t make the pitch all about you, it should be about your relationship with the writer and how you’re connected in some fashion

Q: What characteristics does the perfect piece of content possess?

What characteristics does the perfect piece of content possess?

There is a vast difference between what writers prefer.

Q: What types of content do you wish you saw more?

What types of content do you wish you saw more?

Networking Lesson

Q: How important is it for a person to establish a personal connection with you before pitching content?

How important is it for a person to establish a personal connection with you before pitching content?

Strive to make a personal connection with every writer that you pitch. 64% of writers think it is of some importance that you establish a personal connection before pitching. Use Twitter as a platform to socialize with your prospects weeks prior to the pitch. Engage in blog posts. Try to get on their radar and connect on a personal level by favoriting or retweeting their tweets. Dig deeper than just “hey great post I really liked it.” Write them a friendly email if you’ve noticed an error or a typo to engage in conversation.

Q: Which of the following channels do you prefer to be pitched on?

Q: Which of the following channels do you prefer to be pitched on?

Put down your cell phone. Stop spamming on social media. Start writing sincere emails to the best-fit person for your campaign. Use CRM such as BuzzStream to manage your relationships.

Pitch Lesson

Q: What time of day do you preferred to be pitched?

Q: What time of day do you preferred to be pitched?

Use a pre-scheduling tool, like BuzzStream, to send your emails in the early morning hours. Pitches are generally more successful when sent during the mornings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Enable a pitch freeze around holidays and long weekends.

Q: What email length do you prefer?

What email length do you prefer?

88% of writers prefer a pitch be less than 200 words. Make sure to check your word count before sending. Get to the meat of the data as soon as possible. Make sure your intro has value and isn’t just fluffy.

Q: Do you open an email based on its subject line?Q: Do you open an email based on its subject line?

Test your subject lines in your inbox. What stands out? The golden rule is 45-65 characters. Have a call to action. Don’t be vague, be descriptive.

Q: Which of the following subject lines catches your attention the most?

Q: Which of the following subject lines catches your attention the most?

An overwhelming number said they want a subject line that is:

  • Direct
  • Concise
  • Descriptive
  • Includes keywords relevant to the writer’s beat

Q: How likely are you to delete a pitch based on a spelling/grammar error, regardless of the content’s quality?

Q: How likely are you to delete a pitch based on a spelling/grammar error, regardless of the content’s quality?

Avoid errors by clearing your head and taking a walk before sending your pitch.

Q: Do you auto-delete pitches that contain certain words?

Q: Do you auto-delete pitches that contain certain words?

Refrain from using these words in your pitches at all costs.

Q: If you could give 1-3 points of feedback to people who pitch to you, what would you say?

  • Do your research
  • Know the publication
  • Be relevant
  • Make it newsworthy
  • Know my beat
  • Don’t use all caps
  • Be personal
  • Be concise
  • Don’t cold call
  • Does it fit my beat?
  • Use spellcheck
  • No giant attachments
  • Don’t pitch on social media
  • Know my audience
  • Avoid phony friendliness
  • Get my name right
  • Avoid the fluff
  • Tailor your subject lines

Q: What characteristics does the perfect piece of content possess?

  • If your content isn’t top notch, the pitch isn’t going to matter
  • Breaking news
  • Exclusive research
  • Emotional stories
  • Timeliness
  • Relevance
  • Data
  • New hook
  • A story
  • Interview opportunities
  • Data visualizations
  • Useful information
  • Innovative
  • Interesting analysis
  • Storytelling
  • Well-researched
  • Meets editorial mission
  • Original content
  • Solutions to problems
  • Engaging
  • Amusing
  • Useful insights
  • Humor
  • Unique Angles
  • High-quality graphics

 

Do the findings match your experiences? Share them below or tweet to us @BuzzStream. You can also follow Kelsey and Ryan, our wonderful webinar speakers.

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Come Meet Us at #MozCon

mozcon image

We’ll be hanging out at MozCon  in Seattle as a partner company this week.   We have lots of excitement planned, so please give us a shout if you’re a customer or fan of BuzzStream and happen to be there.

Stop by the Pod and say Hi!

We’ll have a demo pod in the  Partner hub, where we’ll be handing out BuzzStream bottle openers and showing off the latest features of BuzzStream. Come say hello to the people that answer your emails and put a face with the names.

The #BuzzBar will be Open

buzzbar lindas

On Monday night, we’ll be turning Linda’s Tavern into the real life #BuzzBar, complete with drinks and games. Please stop by, enjoy an adult beverage on us, and network with your fellow attendees.

Sidebar: Linda’s Tavern was actually founded by the same people who started Sub Pop records (who gave initial visibility to some bands you may have heard of, including Nirvana, Soundgarden, Postal Service, Fleet Foxes, and more), and has a long and storied history associated with Seattle’s grunge and indie scene.  We promise to play cool music on the jukebox all evening to reflect this unique legacy.

Our Own Stephanie Beadell is a Community Speaker!

Our own Stephanie Beadell will be rocking the stage as a community speaker.  She’ll be giving a talk called ” Bad Data, Bad Decisions: The Art of Asking Better Questions” at 11:10 AM on Tuesday. Stephanie will be talking about easy ways to improve your surveys to get better, more meaningful results.

Please come say hello if you make it out to MozCon, and enjoy the conference!

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Case Study: A Fish Story for Link Builders

This is a guest-post by Kelley Starr and contributor Jon Giacalone. Kelley is a partner at LeanTech Group, where he works as a growth accelerator and advisor to early stage digital companies seeking venture capital. You can connect with Kelley on LinkedIn, or Google+. Jon is the Digital Marketing Manager at Fishidy, a map-based fishing social network.

Drawing on Lessons Learned in a Startup Environment

In this post I’ll explore off-page SEO, link building and blogger outreach strategies in a dynamic digital startup environment. I cover venture-backed Fishidy, a map-based online platform for casual and serious anglers (60M in North America) in the $42B annual recreational fishing and angling market.

Connect with local anglers
Fishidy’s core business model relies on converting site visitors to free members and a percentage of those to paid subscribers – a classic freemium to premium business model.

Although Fishidy is an early stage digital startup, the link building strategies executed below can be leveraged by influence marketers building brands at any stage of growth.

Fishidy had identified more than a dozen online and off-line channels in its sales and marketing roadmap to drive customer acquisition – each with its own cost and conversion assumptions predicted. Fishidy needed to test each and determine the most effective channels, but also discard those with the highest costs or performance metrics outside conversion goals.

Digital advertising (PPC) programs were already underway. Conversion rates were being monitored and optimized as an initial baseline to gain early traction. These were measured against on-page and off-page SEO channels which would take time to deliver new members and subscribers.

It was assumed in Fishidy’s business model that link building, influencer distribution and referral traffic would be a key growth driver. Like most companies, link building’s customer acquisition cost (CAC) was expected to be lower than paid search.

Identifying Link Building Targets

As a unique, fun and social online platform, Fishidy was a natural for classic link building tactics including:
• Guest blogging – anglers love an edge and the latest tools
• Editorial article mentions and coverage (digital PR)
• Product reviews
• Blog commenting
• Resource page links (lots of government and tourist sites reference fishing resources)
• And more…

Fishidy Groups
Each of the above was defined as one or more “value exchanges” with the targeted publisher, blogger, social connection or partner. Each value exchange target required different sourcing techniques, tools, outreach process and resources to acquire.

In addition to acquiring guest blog and article posts, Fishidy wanted to establish a national network of angling writers and influencers (ambassadors) by location, fishing type (bass, pike, fresh, saltwater) that could contribute to Fishidy’s social channels, news feed, local community and blog. As a side benefit the link building outreach program would uncover social influencers and build their angling community.

The Marketers Challenge – Time and Resources

BUILDING THE TEAM

Fishidy’s CEO and recently recruited marketing team (including Jon) had plenty on their hands at the busiest time of the year. Link building and community outreach was just one of many critical activities. It was important to guard the time of the team, but leverage them at key points throughout the outreach process. To fill out the team, a marketing intern was assigned and two part-time outside consultants would assist in the execution of the off-page brand referral program.

Jon took the lead from Fishidy’s team. I collaborated with Jon to build the strategy and test the process and execution.

Creating Strategy

To build our execution strategy, we had a number of decisions and discussions to build around. We found Basecamp to be a great platform to create key tasks, monitor discussions and document the process. The team was in three geographic locations and allocated time as needed.

Defining Project Funnel Stages

Next we looked at the milestone activities needed to execute Fishidy’s link building strategy, analogous to stages in a sales funnel. This would be critical for monitoring progress and ownership of assignments as we developed our influencer partnerships. Key milestones are listed below:

Sourcing involved the tools and processes to identify site and influencer targets out of the 1,000’s of potential suspects. Example: Google advanced search: fishing apps inurl:guest. Or tools like Citation Labs Link Prospector.
Researching involved reviewing, scoring, prioritizing and segmenting each suspect to get from 1,000′s to 100’s.
Outreach strategies and followup to qualified targets – email, social, phone (yes phone!)
Engagement – engaging with those that had mutual interest and defining the value exchange, initially 100’s and over time 1,000′s .
Partnership Acquired – defined the point where we had successfully established a relationship and defined a specific value exchange, i.e. guest post, product review, mutual social engagement, initially dozens scaling to 100s.

Tools For Execution and Scale

It was clear that something much more sophisticated than a spreadsheet was required to stay organized. Fishidy had a marketing automation platform in place as one option, but after a review of specialized outreach management tools, BuzzStream was evaluated and selected.

BuzzStream’s focus on link building research, contact discovery, outreach integration with company email and team collaboration could operationally scale with Fishidy’s expected growth. It was essential to keep data organized at the critical hand-off points to the virtual team doing the work.

Taking the stage and funnel approach further, the team exchanged a number of ideas and put more detail into the stage definitions documented below. The lower stages represented deeper engagement.

Relationship Stages
BuzzStream’s custom fields were then used to build the milestone definitions into the system.

You can see in the Basecamp screenshot below, we had a number of iterations and online discussions to build our plan quickly. Jon makes a great point that a conversion on a resource page is different than acquiring a link from a strategic partner.

Viewing history

 

Assembling a Link Building Team With Roles

Using the defined relationship stages gave us a sense of what roles were needed for the team to move from 1000’s of targets, to selectively working with valued partners.

Defining roles was important since Fishidy would be adding staff with growth. Titles and names didn’t matter as much as what role would be used. This concept was important for the virtual team process as we launched. On any given day, any team member might have to jump into a role to move the process along.

Researcher – The researcher role could focus on a number of stages, including executing sourcing tactics, researching and reviewing targets and initial approaches through email/social outreach. Most of the work would be process and detailed oriented and required a full time effort. Automation could be used to scale. Fortunately this role could also be performed by a marketing intern at a lower cost.

Analyst – The analyst needed more experience than the intern and would assist on the outreach stage, developing relationships through email, social channels and phone, follow up and hand-offs to the strategic team (see below). Automated tasks were balanced with building one-on-one personal relationships. The analyst would also develop quality content as partners were identified.

Strategic Team – Focused on personalization and influencer engagement vs. automation. This effort required engaging with qualified targets, developing mutual relationships, defining partnerships and content development. The Strategic Team was time constrained and focused on the bottom of the funnel opportunities which were managed and handed off by researchers and analysts. The company opportunity cost is the highest with the strategic team.

With the roles defined, Jon assigned Fishidy’s internal team and external consultants (including me), to the project.

We used BuzzStream’s custom field option to map out the relationship stages. See below.

Edit custom fields
Jon and I played all the roles so we could go through each step of the process, determine friction points and modify as necessary so we could scale link building down the road.

For review, we built the ranking system below combining objective and subjective criteria.

Ranking System

Monitoring Progress Through Filtered Views

As I mentioned, the team worked virtually and in spurts. It was necessary to make it easy to login to BuzzStream and quickly determine the state of campaigns and next steps. With filters and column sorts, each team role could focus on their targets. The screenshot below shows various stages and the role assigned.

Adding stages

Campaign Illustration

To illustrate outreach process, I’ll cover a campaign we executed to test engagement in a localized market. Fishidy felt that each state had its own customer segment and local influencers to target. Many casual anglers stay within a two-hour radius of their home so locally generated content was of value to them.

A campaign was developed with the following goals:

• Target local angling bloggers and publishers for engagement. These writers may accept guest blogs, write reviews or create fishing reports and other content that could be developed for or syndicated through Fishidy.
• Some in this campaign could be recruited to publish their work as a “featured outdoor author” contributing to Fishidy’s national blog.

Sourcing

For this campaign, we targeted local outdoor, tourism and angling-related sites that used guest authors. This was supplemented with in-house lists from trade shows and local events. We created a CSV file and imported to a project within BuzzStream so the campaign could be managed.

Outreach

Outreach templates were created to scale the campaign. Along with email, we collected phone contact information for follow up. (Note: we found that phone follow-up increased our engagement by a factor of two.)

The image below shows a successful outreach and engagement with one of Fishidy’s eventual “featured outdoor authors.” All activity was captured through a BuzzStream email template and integration with Fishidy’s email environment. Following the email below, the Strategic Team was introduced to finalize the partnership expectations.

Response from high quality influencer
Getting Traction With The Model

Below is the Basecamp update on the campaign results with comments and additional feedback.

Basecamp exchange on campaign metrics
Measuring Results

With a strategy to test and scale link building strategies, Fishidy was able to validate the cost and effectiveness of referral and influencer marketing channels against other traffic building tactics.

On a year over year comparison period they were able to:

To Fishidy.com
• Increase overall referral traffic by 157%
• Validated a lower on target CAC for referral and social against a paid search baseline
• Increase traffic to fishidy.com from the blog by 660%
• Increase social referrals by 2,600% on Twitter and 292% on Facebook
• Acquire more than 60 resource links

To the Fishidy Blog
• Increase of 687% in organic traffic
• Increase in social by 630% on Facebook and 1,617% on Twitter

Whether you have a startup budget or the resources of a global brand, the strategies Fishidy used apply. Test your link building assumptions against other digital channels and make sure you have the tools and roles defined to scale for growth.

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Promoting Interactive Content: Getting Ahead of the Content Marketing Pack

In 2013, the most popular pieces of content on both BuzzFeed and the New York Times had something in common.

Was it that they were well-research pieces by respected journalists? No. In fact, the NYT piece was created by an intern. Did they break news? Nope, no new news was made. Were they beautiful, Snowfall-like visual constructions? Nope. They were designed from templates.

They were quizzes.  The writing is on the wall: interactive content is the future of content marketing.

 

Banner

But let’s back up a step:

We’re drowning in content.  Absolutely drowning in it. 93% of businesses are doing content marketing, and 99% of software companies (and what seems like 150% of our own special little category of marketing software) are employing it today.  And it is getting worse.

And while I normally write about how content promotion solves this problem, today I want to look at it from another lens: with today’s interactive content, what’s the best way to market it? (I’ll leave making it for another post.)

 

Interactive Content: What it Is

Broadly, interactive content is calculators, quizzes, free tools, and other things of that nature that users can interact with – instead of just read.

Examples

BuzzFeed & NYT Quizzes

In 2013, the most popular piece of content on both the New York Times and Buzzfeed was a quiz. On both the Grey Lady, inventor of journalistic objectivity, and the new publishing upstart best at pushing viral buttons with lists, an interactive quiz was the most popular piece of content.

Let’s unpack these a little more:

Because you are alive and have an internet connection, you have likely seen a BuzzFeed quiz.

BuzzFeed offered the quiz “Which Pink Lady Are You?”, helping users understand, well, which female character from the movie Grease they should be. It was one of the most shared pieces of content in 2013.

In 2014, they came aback at quizzes in a big way with a new graphic layout, leading to winners like “Which City Should You Actually Live In.”

BuzzFeed- What city should you live in?

These graphically oriented quizzes put up some great traffic numbers:

Traffic history

Referral Breakdown

How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk

The New York Times created this amazing, incredibly popular quiz about language patterns in the United States:

Sunday Review

This twenty-question quiz was shared millions of times, and was one of the most popular pieces of content on the New York Times website in 2013.  It was created by graduate student intern Josh Katz, based on the 10-year old Harvard Dialect Survey.

Unknown

In the nation’s most influential paper, which regularly breaks real news and hosts some of the best and most sough-after journalists alive today, the most popular piece of online content was a quiz, created by an intern from 10 year old public data.

 

How Americans Die

Bloomberg published a remarkable interactive data visualization on death in America:

How Americans die

While it didn’t put up the amazing numbers the previous two samples did, it definitely meaningfully outperformed other content on Bloomberg:

How Americans Die #2

 

Why Interactive Content?

So we know that interactive content can be very successful – particularly if we include final states people can share that show their own identity to their peers on social networks. (In some ways, BuzzFeed can be thought of as a venture-backed experiment in social networks and identity behavior.)

This content has several key advantages:

It Sticks Out

Useful and fun tools have not been beaten to death yet by marketers, unlike, say, infographics, ebooks, white papers, and everything that came before them. When you see one, it is still novel, different, and potentially delightful.

It Can Be Evergreen

This is huge – these things can keep on giving MUCH longer than a traditional blog post. They’re new every time people visit.  Effectively moving to interactive content can help publishers create pieces that last a long time, instead of hits driven pieces.

As Summer Anne Burton, managing editorial director of BuzzFeed, said:

“We had been making quizzes slowly, but nothing crazy. Then, around the end of last year, I was looking at some stats and what posts had done really well. Our most shared post was this quiz called “Which ‘Grease’ Pink Lady Are You?” that Louis Peitzman in L.A. did. It had not been a big hit when it was first published, but it had this super long tail.

I had noticed a couple other things like that — posts that were quiz-related or quizzes that had a second life. “

If you’re a working content marketer, you know that consistently coming up with new material and “feeding the beast” is a major challenge. Well-architected interactive tools gie you a chance to step off the treadmill and create a system.

 

They can be designed with a UX that drives conversion

Calculators like this one and other similar pieces can not only attract traffic and serve the top of the funnel, but can also show people relevant offers and drive visitors through the funnel.  I would expect to see more interactive experiences that show off merchandise or offers in the next 12 months.

For example, Julep, the Seattle-based A16Z funded nail polish company uses a quiz to help new users discover their style profile, and sign up for an appropriate package:

Julep

 

Building a Data Asset for Future Work

When people fill out these quizzes and interact with these pieces, that data can go somewhere.  The low-end version of this is taking email addresses and adding them to your list.

The more elaborate version of this is adding this quiz data to a cookie or persistent identifier associated with the user.  This can be a game changer for lead scoring or personalization, and I expect this to be become a pretty typical marketing technique in 2-3 years.

Scott Brinker of the Marketing Technologist Blog has written extensively on this topic as well. He’s even betting his whole company on them:

Marketing Interactive Assets

While the creation of these interactive assets is dramatically beyond the scope of the article (and left to the reader), some of what I’ve observed in seeing people promote these universally applicable.

Think About How People Will Link To, Mention, or Feature Your Piece

Often I see marketers pitch interactives without thinking about how the linking/featuring site will post it.  Most journalists and content creators know how to feature images and studies – but how do you feature a quiz, a calculator, or an interactive multi-part graphic?

Consider making versions that are easy to embed and look great – either a version of the interactive that can be embedded (which you may or may not want to do depending on your marketing objectives), or good images or animated gifs of the tool’s operation.  Then you can make it as easy as possible for your outreach prospects to feature you.

Make Sure Your Device Support and Your Promotion Plan Are Aligned

The rise of the multi-device world has really caught a lot of marketers by surprise and can cause some interesting issues in content promotion.

For example, much of the inventory available on some ad units good for content promotion, like Twitter ads, is mobile. If your piece of interactive content isn’t mobile friendly, you might very well find yourself with an expensive fail if you use them without segmenting to desktop/tablet only.  (I often play a game of clicking on promoted Tweets on my mobile phone and seeing if it leads to a responsive page or not.)

In a perfect world, marketers would have lots of technical resources and get everything working perfectly on every device. (If you’ve worked in more than one or two marketing organizations, you’re probably laughing quietly to yourself at this statement.) But we do not live in such a world – so if you don’t support mobile devices, make sure you don’t unintentionally end up pushing mobile traffic at the piece.

Pitch the Value, Not the Tool

When marketing technology products, marketers are classically told to focus on benefits and advantages instead of features.  Marketers still focus on features, and people still say this, so this is something of an existential problem in marketing.

But whenever marketers get something new, they often get lost in the shinyness and forget about the customer value they’re communicating.

This cognitive bias has two factors:

  • Often people are so excited to do a quiz or an interactive, they forget the editorial and results fall flat.  These still need the same level of knowledge and editorial care and planning that would go into a whitepaper or an ebook.
  • A quiz in and of itself isn’t that novel – pitch the value rather than the technology.

 

You Still Need a Campaign Launch Plan

While this will be a familiar concept to readers of BuzzStream material (we even created a guide about it), even the best pieces of interactive content need a promotion plan and  alaunch plan, ideally across paid, owned, and earned media.

Conclusion

While the New York Times and BuzzFeed don’t have much in common, they’re both succeeding with interactive content.  As interactive content trickles down to marketers,we’ll see this employed more and more, with varying degrees of success.  While the challenge of interactive content is largely in its creation, marketing it effectively is still extremely important, and reducing friction and creating promotion plans are needed to achieve the full ROI of these strategies.

 

 

 

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Upcoming Webinar: Crafting Perfect Pitches

Update: The video and slide deck from this webinar can be viewed at http://www.buzzstream.com/blog/how-to-pitch-for-pr.html

Kelsey Libert and the Frac.tl team surveyed more than 500 editors, bloggers, and journalists at major news publications and sites about what makes a perfect pitch. On Wednesday, July 9th at 1:30 EST, they’ll be sharing this research with the BuzzStream community in an exclusive webinar. You can sign up here.

Update 7/18: The Webinar Video, Slides, and Recap are available here.

How To Pitch Webinar

In the webinar, you’ll learn how to structure your outreach messages and pitches to get real media coverage for your brand. We’ll cover things like message length, the best time to pitch, and what details your outreach should include. You’ll also learn how the preferences of major news publishers vary from niche blogs and specialty sites.

Kelsey is the VP of Marketing at Frac.tl and is a regular contributor to Marketing Land, HubSpot, and The Harvard Business Review. Ryan is the Promotions Supervisor at Frac.tl and oversees a team of media relations specialists that regularly earn placements on sites like Upworthy and The Atlantic.

We have more webinars planned in the near future. If you have feedback or ideas on who you’d like to see or which topics you’d like covered, please email me at stephanie at buzzstream dot com. We hope to see you on the 9th!

Here’s the link to sign up for the webinar.

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How to Find and Analyze Your Competitors’ Campaigns

When you understand what your competitors are saying and doing, you become more confident in what makes your brand different and special. You get better at targeting and create more compelling messaging. An audit of your competitors’ marketing campaigns is a great place to start.

5 Steps to a Competitor Campaign Analysis

The following process will help you conduct an audit of your competitors’ marketing campaigns.

Step One: Determine Who Your Competitors Are

Spend some time brainstorming who your competitors are. Ask business executives who they consider to be your biggest competition. Look at who else is performing well in search results for your keywords. Check out tools like SEMRush and SimilarSites. Don’t be afraid to include businesses that are significantly larger or smaller than your own.

Step Two: Research Your Competitors’ Online Properties

Look at each competitor’s website and all of its social media properties.

Website

  • What’s being merchandised on the homepage?
  • Are there any products, categories, or themes that are getting special attention?
  • What categories or themes is the blog focused on lately?
  • Are there any weekly or on-going post themes?
  • Does it explicitly mention any campaigns or contests?
  • Do any specific bloggers or influencers get mentioned on the blog?

Social Media Profiles

  • Is the competitor using any hashtags that indicate an organized campaign?
  • Are there themes that stretch across platforms, like Twitter and Instagram?
  • Has the competitor shared any specific content they’ve created?
  • Are there any topics mentioned frequently?
  • Does the competitor regularly point to specific bloggers or websites?
  • Is there any unique content (like videos or photography) hosted on the social media platforms?

Step Three: Research Your Competitors on External Sites

A backlink analysis (using tools like Ahrefs or OSE) is a great place to start, but results can be muddied if one of your competitors is a megasite like Amazon or Target. In those cases, consider looking only at relevant subdomains or categories. (E.g., If I’m a local garden center competing with a huge brand like Home Depot, I’d pay attention to the backlinks for gardenclub.homedepot.com and homedepot.com/gardenclub.)

Try to find the referring sites that look like blogs, then run a Google search for “Competitor Name” site:theblogname.com. You’ll be able to find when the blogger talked about the brand, what they said, and whether the brand/blogger relationship was a one-off mention or an on-going relationship.

You can run searches for Competitor -site:competitor.com to begin to find similar results. Again, look for the domains that look like blogs or editorial sites. You can get more advanced by including keywords with campaign types:

  • Brand -site:brand.com
  • Brand review -site:brand.com
  • Brand guide -site:brand.com
  • Brand sponsors -site:brand.com

Tip 1: As you go, keep track of all of the sites that could be an opportunity or fit for your brand in the future.

Tip 2: The BuzzStream List Navigator can save you a ton of time here. Watch the video.

Step Four: Analyze the Campaigns

As you review all of the internal content and external sites that mention the competitor, you should start to get an idea of what the competitor is prioritizing. Maybe they’re working on product reviews within a certain category, or maybe they’re trying to get in front of a specific audience.

Ask the following questions for each campaign:

  • What type of campaign is it? Sponsorship? Review?
  • Who are they targeting?
  • How are they positioning themselves?
  • What are their main messages and tagline?
  • Are there offline components to this campaign?
  • What behavior are they asking for? What are they ultimately selling?
  • Does it seem like they’re using a PR, Social, or SEO agency?
  • What is their goal with this campaign?
  • Why might that be their goal?
  • Does this campaign look natural or does it feel a little forced or spammy?

Step Five: Find Opportunities for Your Own Brand

Now that you have an idea of what your competitors are up to, you can begin to glean insight and ideas for your own brand.

Ask yourself the following about your own brand:

  • What strategies are my competitors missing?
  • Where does their messaging fall short?
  • Which audiences are they missing out on?
    • Why are they running these campaigns?
    • Has the business prioritized a category?
    • Are they after something like coupon use? Does that mean coupons convert well?
    • Are they getting links for the sake of links? Are they at risk for penalty?
  • What do bloggers generally expect from these campaigns?
  • How are my products or services different from what my competitors are promoting?
  • What can I offer to bloggers that my competitors can’t?

Going back to the Home Depot gardening example I mentioned earlier, my research helped me find that the company ran a blogger review campaign last year with the hashtag #DigIn. Rather than looking for links, though, it seems Home Depot was really after email signups. If I were a small, local garden center, I’d think about a few things. First, I should consider an email newsletter of my own. Second, it seems like the Home Depot missed out on local bloggers, so maybe they’re the ones I could go after.

Did we miss any key questions? What do you usually look for when doing competitor audits of your own? Leave a comment or tweet to us @BuzzStream.

P.S. Special thanks to our intern, Olivia Polger, for her help editing this post.

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Introducing Outreach in the BuzzMarker for Chrome

Today we’re launching the first major improvement to the BuzzMarker for Chrome.  Now BuzzStream’s outreach module is integrated into the Chrome extension, so you can take BuzzStream’s outreach capabilities with you, wherever you go on the web:

Let’s Take a Closer Look

Browse to a site you’d like to reach out to, and open the BuzzMarker for Chrome. (We’ll start with cucumbernebula.com.) Next, click on the envelope icon to activate the outreach module in the chrome extension, and BuzzStream opens an email editor:

gif 1 for buzzmarker in outreach

 

You can send emails, use templates, set reminders, and schedule sending – all without ever leaving your prospect site.  You can also see your history of interactions with that influencer or journalist, simply by clicking the history tab in the BuzzMarker for Chrome.

With the BuzzMarker for Chome, you can bring your team’s knowledge of influencers and the power of BuzzStream’s outreach module with you, wherever you go on the web. And that means better pitches, more placements, and ultimately happier clients and more revenue.

The Deep Dive: Use Templates, Set Notifications, Schedule Send Times, and More

Let’s take a look at how to use some of BuzzStream’s more powerful outreach features from the Chrome extension:

Select Templates

Click on the template icon in the Compose window (the piece of paper with the T & the folded edge), and you’ll be able to chose from the outreach templates in the current project.  If you select View All Templates  from the dropdown, you’ll be able to see all of your templates and response rates in the right rail display:

gif for templates in outreach buzzmarker

Adjust Formatting

By pressing the “A” icon in the options bar, you can bring up a text editor, enabling rich formatting like changing fonts, colors, adding links, and more:

 

changing formatting gif for announcement post

Set Follow-Up Reminders

You can set follow-up and reply notifications by clicking on the Notifications icon (the bell) at the bottom of the compose window.  Now BuzzStream will remind you if you haven’t heard back in a certain number of days, or alert you when you receive a reply:

animated gif for notifiactions

Send at the Right Time

You can choose send times with the “Send” option, so the recipient gets your message while they’re in front of their computer:

gif for scheduling sending

 

Let Us Know What You Think!

Please let us know what you think – drop us an email at support@buzzstream.com, leave a comment, or tweet us @BuzzStream. We read every single message, and we’d love to hear from you as we continue to make BuzzStream more powerful and easier to use.

And if you don’t already have a BuzzStream account, you can start a free trial today.

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Using BuzzStream to Avoid Disavowed or Blacklisted Domains

Today’s post on keeping track of disavowed and blacklisted domains comes from BuzzStream customer and friend, Martin Woods of WMG

It’s blindingly obvious that you shouldn’t make the same mistakes twice, especially when it comes to a Google penalty. According to Matt Cutts, the consequences for the second breach of their terms & conditions are even more severe than the first.

Google

But how do you keep a track of all the websites and contacts which you don’t want to work with? It’s especially hard when you are a large outreach team working on multiple campaigns at the same time, as it’s vital to keep everyone working holistically.

Typically if you have completed one or more Google Disavow files, you will have a long list of sites which at best will offer no link value and at worst could land you with another Google penalty. This guide will show you how to store, manage and use a list of websites and people whom you do not want to be affiliated with in any way.

This data can then be used with the new BuzzMarker Chrome Extension to quickly identify blacklisted domains that shouldn’t be contacted when you and your team are browsing websites.

 

Eliminate risk using BuzzStream to flag blacklisted domains

BuzzStream to the rescue!

One of our biggest challenges and our biggest opportunities is to make data more accessible across our business. That’s why we at WMG use BuzzStream to record and store our contacts, making the data more accessible across our teams and easier to use to inform campaigns and decision making.

 

Keeping things structured and tidy in BuzzStream

Before I explain how you can use Buzzstream to flag/blacklist domains and contacts with whom you do not want to work with, I will explain how our team structures our BuzzStream account. (Editor’s note: Since BuzzStream is so customizable, your account and project setup may be structured differently than WMG’s.)

As a large SEO agency such as ours with hundreds of clients and thousands of projects, we need to keep BuzzStream obsessively tidy. I personally recommend the following structure to keep things easy to find:

Orange indicates a folder and blue indicates a project.

Archived (Old Clients)

  • %client name%
    • %project url%
      • %client name%-%project url%-%date created%-%project number%-%project name%

Clients

  • BuzzStream
    • Buzzstream.com
      • BuzzStream-buzzstream.com-2014-05-#4-Existing Customers

Prospect Lists by Niche
Internal Projects
z Domain Blacklist/ Approved List (I use a-z to sort this folder to the bottom)

  • BLACKLIST OF DOMAINS
  • APPROVED LIST OF DOMAINS

 

The advantage of using this structure is that it’s easy to move clients and projects around, and it’s nice and simple for our outreach team to understand which project they’re working on. We also use a campaign planner that generates folder and project names based on strict naming conventions; this ensures that law and order are maintained within our BuzzStream account.

01

BuzzStream filter system

Create custom fields for websites to record why a domain has been blacklisted or whitelisted

We use custom fields in BuzzStream to create checkboxes that describe the reason why a person or domain has been either blacklisted or whitelisted. This ensures everyone in the future will know exactly why the site does or doesn’t meet our quality standards and why they should or shouldn’t make contact.

 

02

Customize fields settings

For clarity, I have two separate custom fields. The first is for why the domain was flagged under a blacklist, and the second for if the team have reviewed a flagged domain, but only found something small (like some comment spam). After all, we wouldn’t want to not work with someone like the BBC because of a link disavowed at the URL level.

Blacklist Custom Field – “Does the Domain Break Our Link Quality Guideline Issues?”

 

03

A custom checkbox field for use in clarifying why a site hasn’t passed our quality control settings

Whitelist Custom Field – “Passed Quality Control”

04

– A custom field for when (date) the site passed a quality control review

Create two separate projects for the blacklist & white listed domains

I recommend creating two separate projects;

  1. ‘APPROVED LIST OF DOMAINS’ (previously flagged in a blacklist for some reason).
  2. ‘BLACKLIST OF DOMAINS’ (if you name your folder starting with a ‘z’ it will filter to the bottom of the list keeping it out of the way).
05

Blacklist/whitelist projects

Create website type & relationship stage – “Previously Blacklisted”

I like to flag a domain in as many ways as possible to reduce the chance of mistakes when it comes to domains which break our quality guidelines. Therefore I also create a custom Relationship Stage -“Rejected / Blacklisted Domain” and a new Website Type – “Previously Blacklisted/Disavowed” to make it crystal clear to anyone looking in the project in the future.

 

06

Custom Website Types

A domain can only have one relationship stage and one website type (via Dropdown) at any one time, so there is no confusion. Then, if the domain is cleared in the future it can then be changed to the correct ‘Website Type’ global identifier.

 

Upload a single domain which you would like to blacklist

The reason for adding only one domain at this stage is that we are going to be uploading potentially several thousand domains (depending on your Disavow/blacklist), and it’s best to upload it as a CSV rather than trying to import via copy & paste.

Select “Add from List of URLS” and enter one of your domains which you would like to blacklist.

 

07

Select “Add from List of URLs” to import a domain to blacklist

Make sure that you select the relevant data (see below), at this stage it is also possible to add a Tag to the website which we’re importing. You can do this now, or at a later stage. I suggest tagging it in capitals to make it stand out from your other tags used to identify a domain. E.g. PREVIOUSLY DISAVOWED/BLACKLISTED DOMAIN.

08

Mark the domain with any relevant information

If you have forgotten to categorise anything don’t worry, that is the beauty of BuzzStream, we can do it later!

 

Export the BLACKLIST OF DOMAINS project

 

09

Exporting websites from a project in BuzzStream

At the moment there is currently only one domain to export, but in the future if you wanted to export all the domains then you can do this by clicking the check box above the one highlighted in red and clicking the ‘Select all’ link.

Select the following columns to export:

  • Website Domain
  • Website Type
  • Tags
  • Relationship Stage
  • Does The Domain Break Our Link Quality Guideline Issues?

Add a list of all the domains which you want to blacklist

10

Add the rest of your disavowed domains to your database export

Be careful to only add domains you want to blacklist and not URLs of particular pages, if you have any of these in your Disavow file.

Free Excel Tool – Disavow file to whitelist cross-checked blacklist

The majority of people will most likelyuse a Disavow file as a source for their BuzzStream blacklist. I have created a small Excel tool which automatically convert your disavow file into a BuzzStream friendly list of domains which you can copy straight into your exported BuzzStream (Figure 10). This will stop any risk of disavowing domains which you have in a white list, or that you haven’t disavowed at domain level.

 

11

Disavow list to blacklist tool

To use this tool, paste the list of rows from your disavow file into the red cells, copy all the rows in the green cells and then paste these into the A Column of your BuzzStream export.

Flag the added domains

Now it’s time to flag the new domains which we’ve just added from our cleaned Disavow list. Duplicate the cells from row B2 to the end of the named columns (highlighted in Orange) down the page for all the domains which you’ve added.

 

12

Finished populated BuzzStream blacklist database ready re-import

Re-upload the blacklisted domains project back to BuzzStream

Now it’s time to let BuzzStream do all the hard work. We re-upload the file using the ‘Import from Existing File’ option from the ‘Add Websites’ dropdown within the websites tab. Making sure that you have selected the correct project (top left), you don’t want to mix up your list and make it segmented.

13

Import back to project

In the box that pops up select Match My CSV (below) and upload the file.

14

Select the type of template to upload

Select‘Auto-Update Existing Contacts’ and make a final check that you are uploading to the correct project – ‘BLACKLIST OF DOMAINS’

15

Configure the upload

Let’s have a cuppa

Now this is the most important bit, make sure not to miss it out…

Sit back and have a lovely cup of tea, I would personally recommend Yorkshire Tea. This is perhaps one of the best things about working at WMG; we only ever buy Taylors of Harrogate tea! It would be wrong to buy anything else when we’re based in Harrogate with the world famous Betty’s just down the road.

Once BuzzStream has does all the hard work processing the data, you can go in and see the fruits of your labour.

And that’s it

Now you can identify a blacklisted domain in any new project quickly and easily from either within BuzzStream, or using the new and improved BuzzMarker Chrome Extension.

 

17

How to identify a previously blacklist domain in BuzzStream

 

18

How to identify a blacklisted domain in BuzzMarker. *please note I chose the domain 0000web.com to use as an example because it no longer exists, I am not implying that this domain should be blacklisted.

Conclusion

If you find a domain in your blacklist that shouldn’t be there after reviewing the website again in more depth, you can easily move the domain from your global BLACKLIST project to the APPROVED LIST OF DOMAINS project which we created at the beginning.

If you do this, remove the tags/fields assigned to it that flag it, and populate the custom field which we created called ‘Passed Quality Control’ with a date. This ensures that in future, you’ll know when the domain was whitelisted; domains can change and what was once a good domain can easily become a bad domain…

Happy Outreach!

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