Link Building

1024 682 Rebecca Moss

Tapping into a new market: Digital PR for international markets

Last week, we covered the basics of entering a new market. We looked at keywords, translations, search intent and some particularities of different markets. Once the website is launched and everything in place, you might want to launch a first digital PR campaign to attract backlinks in the market where you just launched your website. You get as far as translating your content marketing piece and the press release but get stuck at the outreach stage. How to approach a journalist in that market? Does the same campaign work across markets or do we need to make changes?

At this point, just a translation will not do the job. Already when you create the asset, the content piece to outreach with, you want to take local knowledge into account. There might have been facts in your data set that are not interesting for a UK audience but could be beneficial if highlighted for a different target market. Visuals also play a key role in a data-led campaign and this can change from one market to the next.

Why does this look different?

The most important consideration for any digital PR campaign is always whether it will resonate with the audience. Visuals play a key role in this matter and are at the same time one of the big traps you could walk into. To demonstrate what we mean by that, we look at some major publications and how they appear in different markets.

This is Vanityfair for Italy:

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.it/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.it/ on 26/08/2020

This is the same publication for English speaking markets:

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.com/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.com/ on 26/08/2020

That is Vanityfair on the same day for Spain:

Screenshot taken on https://www.revistavanityfair.es/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken on https://www.revistavanityfair.es/ on 26/08/2020

And that is the French version:

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.fr/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken on https://www.vanityfair.fr/ on 26/08/2020

If we compare all those websites, the only constant seems to be the font of the logo, everything else is changing from images to colour schemes and use of text. The reason for this is a difference in audience perception.

It is not a coincidence or singular case. To prove that we look at Business Insider in different markets.

Germans are very business-like:

Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.de/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.de/ on 26/08/2020

Italians even embed Facebook in their business insights:

Screenshot taken from https://it.businessinsider.com/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken from https://it.businessinsider.com/ on 26/08/2020

The French do it too:Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.fr/on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.fr/on 26/08/2020

The Mexican version gets a bit more colourful:

Screenshot taken from https://businessinsider.mx/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken from https://businessinsider.mx/ on 26/08/2020

The Nordics put images to the right side:

Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.com/nordic?IR=C on 26/08/2020

Screenshot taken from https://www.businessinsider.com/nordic?IR=C on 26/08/2020

We could continue playing this game, but you know what we are trying to say. It is best to have a look at some publications in each market before you design your visuals.

How to approach a journalist?

Your asset and the press release are ready, and you start working on your outreach list. You identify suitable websites and journalists for that market, and you start contacting them. No response. What could you possibly have done wrong?

The first thing to look at is the tone of voice you used in your press release and the way how you address the journalist. Your English press release might have started with a casual “Hi Tom” and the translator correctly translated it. But there are markets where casual is too casual. Whilst Italians take these things easy, a journalist in France or Germany will in most cases immediately bin your email if you are not super polite. The English “you” has two different equivalents in other languages. There is an informal way and a formal one. If a language has both variants, you are in most cases better off using the formal way of address and of course their surname. In the English-speaking world, an email that starts with “Dear Mr. Smith” might seem overly polite and would probably make you feel old. However, it is crucial in other markets to keep this type of etiquette.

Why does nobody respond?

Another place to look for clues could be your subject line. Did you translate that one from English? If the answer is yes, look at last week’s example of the movie titles that had changed completely in the different markets. Maybe it is worth reviewing your subject line to get journalists in other markets to open your email.

Once your press release has been updated, take another look at your content asset. We already spoke about design, but are you providing enough detail for that market and are the facts interesting for the audience? One example would be the methodology which should be extremely detailed in markets like Germany and not have a single hole. Journalists in that market are very detail oriented and want to know where exactly the data comes from to ensure accuracy before they republish or link to anything.

That is still no guarantee for a successful digital PR campaign as there is one important factor we have not yet talked about: the media landscape in that country. It is crucial to know the market well to be fully aware of all the traps. In Germany for example, it is important to know that many publications belong to the same media group. Depending on the topic of your campaign and the angles, you might have reached out to multiple journalists and different publications that are all working under the same editorial guidelines. Those are usually the same across a portfolio of publications that are under the same roof. We can for example look at the publishing house Bauer and their portfolio of publications.

This is their lifestyle portfolio:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

Screenshots taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

The women’s magazines:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

Those are aimed at women too:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

If you target food publications:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

The health topic is clearly underrepresented:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

There are only 3 for cars:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

And let’s not forget those aimed at men:

Screenshot taken from https://baueradvertising.de/portfolio/ on 26/08/2020

As you can see, there’s a wealth of publications in one hand (and we only looked at one publishing house). Even with multiple angles, if it doesn’t adhere to their guidelines, you will have a hard time because one rejection of your campaign is equal to a rejection of up to 8 publications.

There is only one solution

Before you plan a digital PR campaign for a market you are not familiar with, it is best to get somebody on board who is! Learn as much as you can about the market and its particularities to know what works for the journalist and the reader once you get the journalist to read your press release.

At JBH it would be our pleasure to assist with your international digital PR campaigns. Get in touch!

1024 682 Jane Hunt

Guest posting and how to not get your links: The SEMrush case

It is one of our most loved SEO tools and a must for anybody who is serious about SEO: SEMrush. But in June 2020 some negative headlines made the news, or shall we better say, made Twitter?

Screenshot of a Tweet by John Locke on 3rd June about SEMrush guest posting services.

This reminds a lot of those emails we occasionally get from what we call a “link broker”. They are offering links that supposedly “look natural” on high-quality, authoritative websites… for a price. Some of that money is for the link broker himself, some is for the writer who creates a beautiful, natural article about playing poker games in between changing diapers and the rest is for the webmaster who manages the website that the link will be placed on. That is the very definition of a paid link!

What SEMrush claimed though is that they have a team of digital PRs that is reaching out to journalists, similar to an outreach agency. The statement also included that they wouldn’t pay the other website and that the payment is merely for digital PR services. But there is a but: If they reach out to journalists the same way we do at JBH, why do they charge per link and how do they guarantee certain stats? We all love the idea of that, but if you are doing outreach the natural way, you should get more than one link out of it and there will naturally be links from different websites with very different stats. Everybody who can guarantee that there will only ever be links from websites with a DR of 50+ and minimum 5000 visitors per month, is probably not doing it the natural way. Head over to our case studies if you’d like to get an idea of the results of a link building campaign that uses digital PR.

Paid links vs. unnatural links

“Natural” seems the new buzzword when it comes to link building. A few years ago, the main discussion in SEO was about paid links and non-paid links, now it is more about natural and unnatural. In his response to SEMrush, Google’s John Muller clearly classified unnatural links as being spam:

Tweet by John Muller about SEMrush guest posting on 3rd June

What this means is that even if you are not paying for a link, the moment it looks as if you might have paid for it, it could become a problem. This will either be a manual penalty, an algorithmic penalty (Penguin is still part of Google’s algorithm) or it simply won’t have any impact as the algorithm ignores such links. Is that worth the investment?  The money might be better spent by creating great content and using an outreach agency to promote that content. The journalists that see value in your content will link to it and promote it further.

The biggest difference here is the person who writes the piece of content that contains the link. In guest posting or services such as the one SEMrush was offering, somebody writes the content with the link based on clear instructions on topic and link embedding for that particular article. In natural outreach, a journalist writes the content and decides where and how a link might be included. The only guideline that is followed in that case is the editorial guideline of the website the journalist is writing for.

When looking at a link, ask yourself whether the whole article is written in the same style as the rest of the website. Is the topic standing on its own or does if fit in well with the rest of the website? Is the author mentioned and if yes is he or she a regular contributor to that website? Are there internal links in the article that connect it to the rest of the website? Does the link to your website look legit or shoe-horned? By answering these questions, you should be able to tell whether a link is natural or not.

The SEMrush controversy

We have not tested the SEMrush marketplace, why would we anyways? But we are suspicious of what SEMrush was offering at the beginning of June. We give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they might have just described their digital PR services in an unfortunate way, but it certainly caused some controversy within the SEO industry with headlines that read “SEMrush selling links”. The fact that their own backlink audit tool flagged such links as being toxic (as discovered and tested by Tom Rayner) shows that they know the difference between a good and a bad link:

Tweet by John Rayner about SEMrush guest posting on 3rd June

The case caused a controversy that led to SEMrush taking their guest posting service down after a few days:

Tweet by SEMrush about shutting down their guest posting service

It also led to Google’s John Muller clearly warning on guest posting for links. He repeatedly mentioned that such links should get a rel=nofollow and rel=sponsored tag. If done right, these links are useful to reach a wider audience and promote your business, but the value for SEO is highly questionable and in the worst case harmful.