Trust is one of the hardest things for marketers to earn. Even with a great product, a solid brand, and a group of loyal customers, businesses need much more in order to grow. They need sales forces comprising their most talented assets: influencers.
Earned media includes content published by someone other than your brand, such as influencer blog posts, reviews, or other unpaid content from third-party resources. This is the form of information that consumers have the most confidence in, and 84 percent of those surveyed consider this source the most trustworthy.
In addition, 94 percent of shoppers research products and services online before making a purchase. They are turning to the Internet to find answers ― but not just any answers. They want them from their peers.
What does this mean for marketers?
Owned media, such as blog posts and website content, are important, but if you want to harness amazing results, you need earned media that is created with search engines in mind. So where should you start? Here are five ways to use earned media to increase SEO.
1. Build Relationships
One key strategy for capturing more earned media is to strategically target influencers. When building these relationships, however, authenticity is key, and the first step is warming up those relationships.
In the beginning, you’ll be a total stranger to the influencer, so you need to create a sincere connection. Here are a few tips for getting started.
- Locate the best influencers. A simple way to accomplish this is by using a search engine such as Buzz Sumo’s influencer search tool.
These engines assist with identifying who is writing and sharing news about the topics most relevant to your brand. Use this tool to search the content of major competitors’ sites and discover who is sharing their content. In some cases, you’ll find these are powerful influencers, and, if so, you can add them to your list of targets.
- Create a Twitter list to strategically target influencers. Creating a list is a great way to stay connected to influencers. Mark the list “private” so others can’t view it. Check on that list weekly, and retweet and comment on relevant posts to build name recognition with the influencer.
- Subscribe to influencer content elsewhere. For example, if they publish on Twitter, they may also share content on LinkedIn. Discover the social platforms in which they participate so you can reach out, share their content, and provide value.
Key takeaway. The first step to creating more powerful earned media is locating the best influencers to share that media. This action sets the stage for future collaborations and shared content.
2. Publish Great Content on Your Site
You might be thinking, “Wait, publishing content on our site is ‘owned media,’ not ‘earned media.’” And this is correct, but there is a good reason why this action is critical.
Let’s say that you want to create brand awareness of a specific topic. To achieve optimal SEO rankings, it helps to publish a few pieces of content on your site before publishing with influencers.
For example, you may publish a series of blog posts on the topic to your website ― and, at the same time, start connecting with influencers. During this time, search engines will be crawling the website and determine that you are an expert on the topic. Then the influencer publishes a piece of content relevant to your topic and mentions your brand. This boosts your authority even higher and increases SEO relevance.
Key takeaway. The first step in using earned media to boost SEO results is maximizing timing. The timing must be right to have the biggest impact. Publish owned media first to establish your expertise, and then roll out earned media to strengthen that authority with search engines.
3. Pitch Topics that You’re Covering
Your sharing of content, commenting on posts, and finding other ways to be helpful have warmed up the influencers. Now it’s time to pitch. But how can you make a powerful and successful pitch?
Jay Baer, who is a digital marketing expert, provides this secret formula. He says, “Don’t ask how influencers can help your brand; figure out how your brand can help influencers.”
Baer provides the three key pillars of a successful influencer pitch:
- Focus on key benefits. The pitch should start out by stating how engaging in the requested activity will provide a benefit to the influencer, whether it’s more traffic, influence, or revenue.
- Get specific about what you want. It’s tempting to keep things generic when sending a pitch, but the more specific you are about what you want, the better. Let’s say, for example, that you recently published an article that generated a high number of shares. You and the influencer have a common audience and you would like to publish similar content using a recent study to drive traffic. Find out if the influencer be willing to participate in a 15-to-20-minute interview so you can capture their quotes. After you publish the content, the influencer will likely share it (so you won’t need to ask them to).
- Create a sense of urgency. Adding an element of urgency to your pitch moves it forward. For example, in the request above, you might say, “I need to complete all interviews within two weeks to meet our publishing schedule.” This gives you a great reason to follow up. If you don’t receive a response, you could say, “Our deadline is approaching, and I’m wondering whether you’re open to that interview I suggested last week.”
Key takeaway. Creating a successful influencer strategy requires you to start thinking like influencers do. You know they’re busy, so what’s in it for them? Tell them explicitly. Perhaps in similar campaigns you drove 80 percent more traffic to an influencer’s page in a single day. If so, include these statistics in your email to better demonstrate the benefits of your pitch.
4. Use SEO Strategically
Influencers should be a key piece of your earned media plan and approach. You need people to start talking about your brand to generate more traffic. But how exactly does this fit with SEO? These tactically designed relationships boost SEO in a few different ways.
For example, strategically embedded links drive traffic from the influencer’s site to your site ― and show search engines your relevance through association. For example, let’s say that you pull together an infographic and offer it to an influencer, who publishes content on the topic. The influencer then decides to include a link to the graphic in a blog post, which provides a connection between the influencer and your brand that search engines notice.
Key takeaway. Seek opportunities to connect to influencers in a way that search engines will notice. The influencer may publish a blog post and mention your company and provide a link or use an infographic that you produced.
5. Share Content
Search engine algorithms are constantly being updated, making it difficult to keep up with principles that help your page rank well. In fact, 74 percent of companies and 82 percent of agencies surveyed report that social media is either somewhat or highly integrated into their SEO strategy. But how?
These elements, which are also called “social signals,” have become increasingly important. In fact, SEO expert Neil Patel, the founder of Quick Sprout, urged marketers not to discount social’s impact on SEO. He believes that social is the new SEO.
Social is not one of Google’s algorithmic ranking factors; however, it’s important to understand that SEO takes place not only on large search engines, such as Google, but also through social.
Take, for example, YouTube, which is the second-largest search engine in the world, behind only Google. About 1 billion searches are performed on YouTube each day. In addition, 100 hours of video are updated every single minute, with six billion hours of video being uploaded each month. A high frequency of shares is one way these internal search engines know the content is relevant, so it rises to the top. As a result, ensure that your strategy includes methods for harnessing social shares, which is a powerful form of earned media.
Key takeaway. Once you create content, post it to social media with keywords in mind. By doing so, you make it easier for internal search engines to find it and drive traffic.
Moving Forward With Earned Media and SEO
Decades ago, if you wanted to get your product featured in a place of authority, you purchased advertising or a TV commercial (think Don Draper and “Mad Men”). But that has changed drastically, and the previous “go to” places to be seen are now largely irrelevant.
Influencers are no longer famous television stars and personalities; instead, they are YouTube, Instagram, and other social media stars. And when you find a strategic alliance between those influencers and your brand, you can create valuable content ― and advantageously boost your visibility with search engines.