PR Outreach That Gets Results
What do your PR efforts amount to? Are you chasing the next spike (of both traffic and endorphins) or are you working to build consistent growth through more organic visibility?
If you’re more interested in the second, then you will definitely like our chat with Dmitry Dragilev from JustReachOut. Our focus is PR outreach that brings results.
Dmitry not only explained the steps of his PR outreach process but did it with a ton of other examples and a detailed screen share that didn’t make it in this article – but you can watch the video from our talk in our resource library, together with other growth talks. Sign up for free!
From 0 to 40+ million pageviews with PR outreach
The moment Dmitry found out about the power of outreach was while working for the polls app Polar. “I was not sure what to do with it because it was just a little app,” he says. But that didn’t last long.
Eventually, Dmitry decided to “marry polls with breaking news articles”. He started looking at TechMeme for new apps and trends and created polls around it. Then he would write to the authors and suggest they embedded the polls on their sites. And he struck gold. “To my surprise, I got people who responded to me – from, like, everywhere! MTV, NPR, TechCrunch, Wallstreet Journal…”
Largely driven by similar organic tactics, Polar grew from 0 to 40 million pageviews a month and got acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount (my guess: a LOT!)
Dmitry went on to share everything he knew about outreach, first creating a course titled “PR that converts” and then creating Just Reach Out, a tool that helps growth marketers “jump in there, do the outreach and learn at the same time.”
PR as brand building vs. PR for SEO
When we talk about PR, most people think about seeing their brand on the front page of a big media publication. It comes with a hefty spike in traffic and some degree of pride, right? Dmitry calls this the “Lights over Broadway type of PR” and believes “it probably is not going to help you in the long term.”
Sure, you get the quick spike. But what happens 6 months from now? You’re back at your standard not too glamorous traffic levels and you’re desperately looking for the next high.
Dmitry describes this predicament nicely: “You can’t keep repeating these spikes in traffic. It needs to be consistent. It’s almost impossible to consistently have news that you can build this PR around. And it’s expensive to create research and data consistently.”
So, instead, you need to focus on creating quality content that ranks. This is the only type of traffic that is not going away in the long run. Getting traffic has a much bigger ROI compared to the general awareness and reputation building from big-media PR. “What do you get out of it at the end of 3 months,” Dmitry asked rhetorically: “You get 10 logos. You can put them on your homepage but at the end of the day it’s not going to continuously bring you customers in the door.”
A much more strategic approach is what Pipedrive did – the team worked hard to rank for the term “sales management”. They created a great piece of content and then did outreach to acquire links for it. And currently, they own the term as far as Google is concerned.
So if we all agree PR outreach works better when geared towards SEO benefits, let’s move to the much more interesting question: How do you do it exactly?
The step-by-step of PR outreach
The short version: You figure what keywords to target, you write an article and you get people to link to it. That’s easier said than done, though. So let’s dive deeper.
Figure out what keyword you want to rank for
The place you need to start is understanding what topics you want to target. And to do that you’ll need to understand what keywords match your target audience, what’s their traffic potential, and how hard is it to rank for them.
You’ll analyze the search volume and the competitiveness of the term through a tool like Keywords Everywhere (Dmitry’s tool of choice), Ahrefs, or Moz. You want to look for keywords with some initial volume and a domain rating (the reputation the site has with search engines) that’s similar to yours – e.g. if your domain rating is 25, keywords that show results from domains with DR 40+ only will be out of reach and probably not worth the effort.
If all the results of your initial keyword choice are from big competitors, you have two options: rank with a guest post through one of them or find another keyword, looking at the keyword suggestions in your SEO tool.
Dmitry says that if you’re just starting out, you don’t necessarily need to concern yourself with the keyword volume numbers. It’s more important to start ranking for something and this will help you build up your domain rating.
Build great content by exploring relevance gaps
Once you’re comfortable with the target keywords, you’ll want to look for a relevance gap - “what you as an expert identify that’s not present in those articles”. It might be that the article is old or that it doesn’t fit the intent of the searcher – like presenting a specific case study if the search is related to a step-by-step how to question.
You find what’s missing in other pieces and then make sure your content addresses these deficiencies. You need to hold your content to an incredibly high standard and ensure that it’s massively better than what other sites have already written on the topic. Dmitry says your piece “has to be like the Bible for you. You should be proud of it – it’s like a product you put out to the world”.
Get some links to it
Your great piece of content is already out into the world, congratulations! So how do you get traffic to it (and start ranking for these juicy keywords)? You need to get links through outreach.
The first source you can use is to write to anyone you mentioned in the article. Dmitry regularly creates posts that specifically link to other people so that he can drop them a line and start conversations with them.
Then you need to start looking for journalists, podcasters, and content creators already in need of content. To find out such requests in bulk, head over to Just Reach Out or a service like Help A Reporter Out (HARO). You will find lots of opportunities that way, but some might be a waste of time – so assess them right:
- Is their domain rating close to or higher than yours?
- Do they have the practice of linking to other people? Check a few of their recent posts and look for links.
- If they link to others, do they give them a dofollow link that has more SEO value? Dmitry usually just checks the code on the article page with the browser’s “Inspect Element” option, but you can also use a tool like this one.
The third option is to reach out without a specific request from the creators. Then you will need to pitch a specific idea you can write up as a guest post for them or discuss in a podcast episode. The pitch should be highly personalized, telling what you like about their media and identifying a couple of topics you can talk about that fit their other content.
Dmitry is clear that outreach and link building are a long-term process and quick wins are rare: “It might take you months to get to a ranking but you accumulate some podcasts along the way, you accumulate some mentions along the way.” So you gain awareness and a nice reputation boost.
What are the metrics associated with healthy PR outreach?
Dmitry focuses on two metrics that tell you if your outreach approach is working. First off, we have the open rate which needs to be 50% or higher. “Your subject line is the gateway to that open rate, that’s what drives it,” he adds. The second element that influences the open rate is who you’re actually outreaching to. Even the best subject line is not going to work if you’re targeting the wrong content creators.
The second metric you want to look at is the response rate - how many people actually get back to you. A response rate of 12% or higher is what Dmitry strives for. To reach that, you need to optimize your outreach email. It needs to be relevant to the sender (hence the personalization we spoke about earlier) and should be short enough for a stranger to read it – “that person doesn’t have a vested interest in you.”
A common question in outreach is the topic of follow-ups. It’s common practice to send a soft nudge to remind the recipient you exist and are still looking for their answer. But some marketers overdo it and send 3, 5, or even 7 follow-ups. “If they’re not gonna respond on the first follow-up, they’re not gonna respond to the 5th one,” says Dmitry. So he uses only one or two.
Consistent traffic trumps big media mentions any day of the week
I really enjoyed our talk with Dmitry and the pragmatic approach he has. After all, we’re all in the growth business, not the “let’s just slap a big media logo on our homepage and call it a day” business. Do you agree?