Posted by larry.kim
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
Want to know how to get a link from the Wall Street Journal?
No … I'm not talking about dropping some dopey, no-followed article comment or some black-hat trickery – those schemes don't count for anything and will probably land you in the Google SEO jail.
I'm talking about landing a real, legitimate editorial link from one of the most trusted and highest authority websites on the planet – it's an SEO's (or any marketer's) dream come true!! Sounds impossible?
In my content marketing case study today, I’ll describe in detail exactly how my team and I recently did just that!
But first – this post reads best with the mission impossible theme song playing in the background, so, cue the Mission Impossible music!
1. Begin With the End in Mind
Every great content marketing operation starts with an objective. For this mission, I set a high bar. I wanted to try to acquire:
Real, editorial links from the WSJ. But not just any link. Ideally, links in an article that:
In some way mentioned WordStream (my company) so that we could get a bit of media exposure out of this effort
Links to both our homepage and contained to a deep page on our site with relevant anchor text.
Get links from least 500 other high value, unique business and IT publications, like Fox Business, the Motley Fool, or CNET, etc.
Have the story go viral on Social Media Networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Generate a huge spike in overall website traffic that month
Create a 10% uplift in our overall steady-state traffic from SEO
With these seemingly impossible mission goals clearly defined, we realized that we'd need super-viral-grade content – something new and exciting, as well as a methodological plan to succeed!
Your Mission, should you choose to accept, is to acquire an editorial link from the Wall St. Journal!
2. Intelligence Gathering
The Wall Street Journal is not just any old news organization – it’s the finest business news organization on the planet!!
Therefore we would need to create a story more powerful than the typical 'how to' or 'X ways to succeed at Y' kinds of articles that we usually run on our blog. Those angles are great for daily blog content, but are hardly newsworthy of the Wall St. Journal, and just not the right tool for this ambitious content marketing mission!
We started our intelligence gathering effort by closely analyzing the objectives and by reviewing the kinds of articles the Wall St. Journal had covered in the past, in order to get a clear idea of the kind of content that we’d need to develop.
To achieve our lofty objectives, it was determined that we would need content that was:
Easy to Understand – We search marketers write about all sorts of dorky shop-talk about this signal or that metric. But since +99.99% of the readership of the Wall St. Journal aren’t search marketers, our story would have to be easily understandable to a broader audience of business people.
Unique – Our content would have to be based on new, original data and new insight. You cannot get the attention of the staff of the prestigious Wall St. Journal merely by rehashing old stuff that is already out there.
Newsworthy – new and unique is necessary but not sufficient. But is it newsworthy? Is the content timely in some way, such that it might merit coverage by the world’s most powerful business newspaper?
Easily Sharable – We would illustrate the key takeaways of our content in the form of an infographic, to enable easy sharing and make the content more visually appealing.
Planning our Content Marketing Operation…
In order to achieve our mission we would need the right gear for the job.
Our big idea was to conduct original research into what industries contributed to Google Revenues. We thought that this idea was both relevant to our core business (search marketing) yet sufficiently generalized to be relevant to the business readers of the Wall St. Journal.
Last year, Google made $ 37.9 Billion in revenues, of which 95% came from advertising. But Google doesn’t provide detailed insight into exactly what industries and companies make up all that money. So, we thought it might be interesting if we could provide an answer!
But how the heck are we supposed to know where Google made their money from if they don’t share that information?!
At WordStream, we have access to a ton of search marketing data that nobody else does, for example:
Our Free Keyword Tool which consists of over 1-trillion search queries – using this data, I can model what people were searching for in 2011.
Our AdWords Grader has collected some AdWords data including average cost per click data across different industries, etc.
Using this data, along with our proprietary keyword classification technologies, and other data available on the internet (such as spyfu, etc.), it would be possible to develop a fairly sophisticated data model to figure out what people were searching for in 2011, and how much revenue Google generated for clicks on searches in different industries, such as “Travel and Tourism” or “Finance and Insurance” and many other industries.
But our content was still in need of a newsworthy angle. Since Google was announcing their 2011 year-end financial results on January 19th, it was decided that we would have to conduct and publish our data analysis within a day or two of the official Google 2011 earnings announcement. Our content would explain where all Google's money came from!
Finally, we partnered with my colleague, Mr. Brian Wallace of NowSourcing and his crack team of infographic design aces to convert my data into a nice infographic that illustrated the Google Earnings data, in order to make it more visually appealing and easily sharable. Here's what it looked like (Click to Enlarge)
In a nutshell, we had developed content that was easily understandable to business readers, unique, newsworthy and sharable –perfect for our mission!
Using the Right Gear (Content) for the Mission!
4. Mission Execution
Having set our goals, put a plan in place, and developing the right tools for the job, all that was left was to execute! We published our infographic just days after Google’s 2011 year-end earnings announcement.
And, as you probably expected, we were indeed successful in getting coverage of our story in the Wall Street Journal!!
Here's a snapshot of what that looked like:
And we also got crap-ton of coverage from many other leading news organizations, including coverage in: Wired, CNET, Fox Business, The New York Times, Business Insider, Inquisitr, The Guardian, Inc Magazine – too many to list out. In total we counted over 600 of the world's leading news sites linked to our Google Earnings article, thanks in part to a domino effect of link building!
And the article spread internationally, too. We found pick-ups from news organizations in Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, and dozens of other countries!
The story went viral on Social Media Networks – our article and infographic racked up a combined:
2491 Twitter tweets
1443 Facebook Likes
554 Google +1’s
697 LinkedIn Shares
Lots of traction on sites like Reddit, Stumble, etc.
We think that from an SEO perspective, the social shares are just as valuable as the link haul that we made off with!
All in, we estimate that nearly 1 million people saw our story, and we were fortunate to have achieved our all the goals that we set out to achieve.
Content Marketing Mission Accomplished!
5. Mission Debriefing
Every time we do a content marketing project it’s a learning experience, so I’d like to share with the SEOmoz community, a few key ideas we learned from this time around!
In my example, I was using interesting data that we had at WordStream to develop some unique content. Now you might be thinking to yourself: what the heck do I do if I don’t have access to a trillion-keyword database or other proprietary ideas to draw original ideas from?
Here’s what you do: Think about what’s unique and differentiating about your business and/or your customers – what kinds of trends are you seeing, what’s changing, then try to measure that. Every company must have something unique about themselves – start brainstorming ideas from there!
Another big learning we stumbled on was that the big media outlets really love brands! The more you can mention major companies in your story, the more likely you will succeed. For example, we included paid search advertising spend data for big name companies in each industry (see screenshot below) and this greatly broadened the appeal of our content. The reporter at the Wall St. Journal and many other news outlets reported on rivalry between brands.
Finally, don’t feel bad if you put in a lot of effort and your plan doesn’t quite come together. I definitely have had my share of content creation efforts that went absolutely nowhere. And sometimes you get incredibly lucky. Just keep at it, try to figure out what went wrong and plan to do things better the next time!
So there you have it. You can get a link from the WSJ, or New York Times, or whatever big news outlet you can dream of. No special tricks or hacks, just a lot of hard work, including planning, research, real content development, and executing on a plan, and of course, a bit of luck!
Copyright Notice: Mission Impossible is property of Paramount Pictures.
About The Author
Larry Kim is the Founder & CTO of WordStream, a provider of software & services for managing PPC. Larry helps out in both the Product and Marketing departments at WordStream.
He can be found on Twitter or Google+.
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