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2Inspire Interview Series
You have to actually go out and contact bloggers and journalists.
Lee Odden is the founder and president of TopRank Online Marketing with proven Search Engine Optimization, blog marketing and online PR knowledge. He is also the author of Online Marketing Blog , a successful blog presenting news, interviews and tips from the industry.
It was really nice to have Lee Odden on our list of internet VIP interviews, who agreed to share with us some online marketing tips for successful businesses in a video interview at Search Engine Strategies 2008 in London. Watch the interview or read the transcript below.
Adriana: Hello, we are at the "Search Engine Strategies" conference in London, 2008 and I'm here with Lee Odden. Welcome Lee! Please tell us a little about yourself and your company.
Lee: I'm CEO at TopRank Online Marketing and we're a search marketing agency that's based in the middle of the United States, in a state called Minnesota. We provide a mix of search engine marketing services ranging from standard SEO, content optimization and promotion, email marketing, online public relations, social media marketing, blog marketing and we really take more of a holistic approach to integrating all of those things together; we don't sell any of them by themselves, we do them all together. We serve a lot of medium sized companies and we also have several Fortune 20 companies as clients.
Adriana: You've had two panel presentations today, one was "Blog and News SEO" and the other one "PR News SEO". Can you tell us how a software company, for instance an ecommerce website, can benefit from this holistic approach, as you like to name it?
Lee: Well, in terms of getting started, I have in mind what the objectives of the site are: I think in any ecommerce setup, everybody targets the sales. Keeping that in mind and depending on where it's starting from, from a SEO standpoint, it may be good to go with its SEO: in that case, I would just probably add on a blog, as a way to supplement the existing SEO strategy. Where you start depends on where the site is and that is why you should first answer some questions: Does it need a lot of help? Is it doing ok?
You can blog about a new product that is coming out, you can review a product and you can also ask people who've used the software for feedback, you know - testimonials and that sort of thing.
The starting point determines what kind of mix of services we would offer, but at the beginning of everything it's objectives of the site, what percentage in increase in sales do they want, what's their cost of sale - and getting all that matrix in place and then making some specific recommendations on how they can get from where they are to where they want to be. Tactically, that might involve something like a blog. So, in a case of a software company, that's selling the kind of software that can be either downloaded or purchased in detail, having a blog that actually announces or reviews new products is a great idea, because those blog posts, each create a new webpage.
A lot of times, when there's a catalog inventory that makes the content of a website, there's no reason to create more content, once the products are up there, they're up there, so what else can you do? A great way to add content and feed the search engines with even more ways to find all these different types of products is to create a blog. So, what do you blog about?
You can blog about a new product that is coming out, you can review a product and you can also ask people who've used the software for feedback, you know - testimonials and that sort of thing. Or have people say hey! here's a way to use the software or the product in a way that maybe wasn't initially intended - that will bring value to the other people who might want to buy.
Also, when making reference to the products in these blog posts, there can be deep links into the page where you can actually buy the product. We've had experience with this and it has increased the internal link popularity and rankings significantly. On the other hand, when you have a blog, you have a RSS feed, so people may subscribe.
If the editorial about the software product is entertaining at all, if there's a personality to it, it can encourage a lot of people to subscribe to it. By doing that, you'll attract attention maybe from other bloggers in the same industry and that can be a great way to attract additional traffic, and can act as a bait if they subscribe. And, if they also have a blog, they will be able to publish, so they might link back to you as well.
Adriana: So, would you feel that blogging is not only for search engine optimization, but also for communicating?
Lee: Sure, there are a lot of reasons to have a blog, so outside of just doing it for SEO and increasing ranking, you can have a blog. One suggestion is that if there is a public relations component to a company's marketing strategy and they are trying to reach out to journalists or they want to make it easy for journalists - let's say - to find their news, they can use a blog to host what's called an online news room or an online press office, right?
If the editorial about the software product is entertaining at all, if there's a personality to it, it can encourage a lot of people to subscribe to it.
Also, there they can archive all their press releases, they can cover their media before, add high resolutions photos or previous interviews they've done, webinars, white papers, anything that would make it easy for a journalist to write a story about them. So that's another application and certainly there are internal blogs where project teams will blog about something to share knowledge with each other - that wouldn't be a public blog typically, but it's another way to use the software.
Adriana: From your experience, what are the biggest mistakes you come across when it comes to PR online?
Lee: Thinking that optimizing and submitting a press release all by itself is enough to get covered by the media, because it's not. There is an expression, in the US at least, doing something to only see if it works it's like "throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks", it's kind of a silly thing to do...
Throwing a press release out there to see if it sticks in terms of journalists or bloggers picking it up it's like you're not giving yourself enough of a chance of success. Then, if you identify journalists who cover that space, who write about those topics in advance, make a list. Also, take a look at editorial calendars for different publications - a lot of print magazines, newspapers or whatever, they will print what they are planning to write about in advance.
You have to actually go out and contact bloggers and journalists.
So, let's say that I have a piece of software that is a consumer relationship manager and I see that this particular publication (that I know that my potential customers read) has a story coming up in a month about CRM software. Well, I would want to make sure that I didn't just send out a press release to the wire service, hoping that journalists would see it. I would contact them directly and say: hey, I see you are going to do a story about CRM software, we specialize in CRM software, here is a really unique angle on the story, where we would be a good company for you to interview.
And then include a link to the press release in the email - that would give a much greater chance of having a release turn into media coverage. You have to actually go out and contact bloggers and journalists.
Adriana: How else do you think that a software company may reach journalists, besides pitching and contacting them directly? You mentioned something about newsrooms...
Lee: Yes, newsrooms. So, a newsroom is just a component of a website that contains information that journalists often ask for, when they're looking for subject matter experts online. I know in the US there have been thousands and thousands of journalists fired and news publications are loosing print audience to online. So, increasingly, journalists and writers are asked to do a lot more with less.
Imagine a journalist saying: I've got ten articles to write, two days and how am I going to do it and hey! here this company is giving me done most of my work for me, I've just got to polish it up and it's good to go - that's powerful
Well, that's a pain point and as a marketing/public relations entity we can go: what can we do to make their job easier? So, we might contact them with a pre-written article and instead of having them write the article, we can have an opinion piece or albeit submitted to them or to the publication; or we can have a prewritten article, a contributed article, that's a way to get their attention.
If you can do things or you can do some research for them - I mean any journalist has to do some research on a particular topic - you can go ahead and do that research, bookmark all the different sources and provide a link to that bookmark page, along with the press release and a synopsis or summary of the article - these are all things that can make it a lot easier for them.
Imagine a journalist saying: I've got ten articles to write, two days and how am I going to do it and hey! here this company is giving me done most of my work for me, I've just got to polish it up and it's good to go - that's powerful.
Adriana: Thank you so much. It's been a great conversation.