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Building Relationships (and Links) from Natural Content

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Building Relationships and Links From Natural Content

Those embedded in the digital marketing industry know only too well how important relationship building has become in an effort to gain awareness, visibility, links, and citations for your brand.

Digital PR is the main game in town now outside social when it comes to leveraging search visibility and targeted traffic from digital.

You can reach key people by jumping on natural web mentions and trending content opportunities for both long and short-term gain. Read on to discover how.

The Principle

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The value of brand is increasing online. That much we know. As the web becomes better connected the impact brand marketing has on digital audience growth becomes greater and more rewarding.

By working on great content and PRing it to the right people (irrespective of whether there's a link at the end of it) is now a key part of any strategy, especially if the site in question has a large or very targeted audience.

We know that Google is looking at how to measure brand citations as a measure of authority and also how much they co-occur with other relevant phrases to help define what they may be relevant for.

If you work on, or for, a brand that people talk about it is imperative that you keep on top of those mentions as a way of growing your network of influence.

But fear not if you aren't yet at that stage. Your aim should be to proactively find ways of starting that process. And that lies with relationships with the people that hold the key to the audience you want.

In short, you need to track not just mentions of your brand or specific product/s but also noise around your industry so you can attempt to add value yourself in the right places.

So, how do you do that? Let's look at the process I use to keep on top of this and exploit opportunities from natural conversation.

The Process

Keeping an eye on all brand and industry mentions is a huge task and one that can quickly leave you overwhelmed if you don't plan well and have process and resource in place to monitor and action the insight it provides.

We have made plenty of mistakes in getting this right and through iteration we have found a way to maximize value while minimizing input.

Below you can see the overview of that and we will talk through each part in turn now.

Building Relationships Process

The key to the process is access to tools. While you can find some of the web mentions a brand gets from search, Google news, Blog search and the like the ability to find articles quickly is the key to conversion.

We have a dedicated person who's job it is to continually monitor each brand we manage to ensure we don't miss any opportunities and that means performing a twice weekly check across all the following tools:

1. Social Graph Mention Trackers

Key to all of this is the monitoring of the social space. It is, however, not easy to do well.

You will usually have two key issues here; either you have such a big brand that keeping out the noise is a real challenge to allow you to focus on what is important or, you have zero brand sharing and you need a strategy for tracking the right kind of keywords.

In the first instance one of the best ways of cutting out the trash is to look at the far ends of the sentiment scale.

Here's where the Net Promoter Score scale can help.

By finding, classifying and tracking those that sit on either end of this scale you come across a greater percentage of mentions, and 'stories' about your brand that you can influence.

Positive and negative articles/content is more likely to be written, for one, and the creator of it is often easier to converse with.

That makes it possible to find mentions and to offer help with projects that may later result in links.

This is where the tracking of phrases such as 'help' or 'research' can work helping you to find people looking for expert contributors or interviewees.

The following tools are current favourites for doing this:

  • Social Mention: A great free tool to find key mentions by search term. Not wholly targeted and things are missed but a useful part of the arsenal.
  • Hootsuite: A free or cheap option for setting up ongoing keyword led tracking. Filtering is challenging but the live feed can be extremely helpful. UX allows you to have several keyword searches side by side for efficient monitoring.
  • Brandwatch: A more top-end solution but with it you get lots more data and the ability to look historically.
  • Bottlenose: Great for surfacing the hottest topics. Often this can help you refine your real time tracking and also define influencers.
  • Topsy: A fantastic tool for keeping an eye on Twitter and for looking back historically too.
  • Little Bird: a smart big data tool that gives you accurate, useful info on the key people writing the key content.

2. Web Mention Trackers

Web mention monitoring is a similar process, but if often the next step in the process. Often the social chatter will have resulted in an article or piece of content creation. Web monitoring is designed to pick up on those pieces, allowing you to look at whether you may be able to add extra value to the article, or request citation if it is appropriate to do so.

Tools to do this are a little scarcer but those that do work include:

  • Moz's Fresh Web Explorer: A great tool to base your web mention monitoring on. It does as good a job as any in finding the key mentions and allows advanced operators to refine results.
  • Google Alerts: Can be useful when used correctly but an awful waste of time if used in the wrong way. Advanced search parameters are key here. example of a few useful ones based on settings I have for my mentions around Zazzle Media can be found below:
    • "Zazzle Media" –site:zazzlemedia.co.uk
    • "zazzlemedia" –site: zazzlemedia.co.uk
    • "Simon Penson" –site:zazzlemedia.co.uk
    • "Simon Penson" Content Marketing –site:zazzlemedia.co.uk
    • "Simon Penson" SEO –site:zazzlemedia.co.uk
    • "Simon Penson" Content Strategy – site:zazzlemedia.co.uk
  • Ahref Mention Tracker: A relatively new tracker, but useful as a 'second option or data source.'
  • Majestic Search Explorer: Again this is a new tool from Majestic but it can be useful for finding sites that may feature content you could contribute too. Use refined search queries to find high authority sites.
  • Preacher – My agency's internal tool is great for finding really popular sites based on search parameters and can be further refined using preset filters (being expanded now) to find things such as infographic placements etc.

What Are You Looking For?

Finding the right mentions can be a frustrating business. The amount of noise and the relative inability of tools to cut it out effectively mean that this is not an exact science.

Like any technical project though the key is testing and iteration. Work with the tools above, or those you have at your disposal, and play around with refining search queries to cut out as much useful info as possible.

Once you have that to a minimum you are looking for two key types of content:

  • Content that features your brand name or mentions/quotes from you or your company's employees without citation links.
  • Content that covers a subject area you are a thought leader in or have input or data of real value to add to the piece to improve it.

Clearly the first will convert the best but the second can also be fruitful if you plan the conversation carefully in the first place.

How Do You Approach the Conversation?

Planning is critical here, as often the journalist that has penned it will have very little time to converse with you. The key is serving up exactly what they need very quickly. I've written previously about how you can structure such a chat and why it is important to follow up on mail and even incentivize the act with a gift!

If you've already been mentioned in the piece, it's a lot easier to cite reasons for wanting the link. Clearly if content you own has been used the old rules of link reclamation and the laws of copyright play into your hands but you would rather earn the link with a value-adding conversation.

That means showing more great content and offering to work with them on follow up pieces or even adding further insight and value to the piece. Offering to share it post update is a sure way of getting the result you need.

Does It Work?

Truthfully, this doesn't always work. Like any genuine tactic, it relies on the relationship, but by keeping at it there's no doubt that it does.

A recent campaign run by a traditional PR agency for a client we work with produced no less than 10 links from DA50-94 sites in a single week; and all of those sites were very well trafficked and read.

It does work, so why not give it a go today?


SimilarWeb Search and traffic sourcing are both crucial to luring shoppers to your website. In this article, "2 Successful Holiday Strategies for Online Retail", you'll learn how to use a two-pronged approach for your holiday search campaigns that combine top keywords with the best referral sites. Data in this article comes from SimilarWeb.

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