Do you want to get featured on an industry blog?
Of course you do, who doesn’t?
No online retailer (or offline, for that matter) would be silly enough not to recognize the long-term benefits of extra internet publicity.
The problem is, most people don’t know how to make it happen.
We will show you each exact step to landing a publication in a blog that will generate the best possible results for you.
But first, here are just a few of the excellent reasons you should be investing part of your day into securing a publication.
How getting featured will boost your store’s sales
The reasons for getting featured are innumerable. But before we get into them, lets start by defining the different ways you can get featured.
One is a guest post. This is when you offer a piece written by yourself, and you offer it to be published by the publication you’re targeting. These pieces will likely have an author bio at the bottom (or top) of the article describing yourself, and linking to your choice of URL – one smart choice would be to link to your store.
Another option is to pitch journalists to write about you. Then you’re not the one writing the article, but you’re offering the journalist a reason to write about you.
In the guest post, it’s good policy not to sound too salesy about your own product. Sometimes a publication won’t let you write about your product at all. However when pitching journalists, the topic of your pitch would be about you and your company.
Both are extremely valuable. One of the biggest gains to getting published, either as a guest post or as a feature, is that your company name is suddenly being viewed by thousands of possible new visitors and potential buyers.*
*There’s nothing worse than getting a ton of new traffic and then not being able to target them afterwards. If you don’t already have a retargeting pixel set up on your store, you should do that now!
Being a published author on your industry’s topic or being mentioned in an article builds credibility. You then become a thought leader, and your brand therefore becomes legitimized. By being an expert in your field you become the go-to person to talk about your subject, your opinion becomes more sought-after, which all translates into more visits to your site and therefore more sales. Not to mention that any public appearances can be shared on social media, and can also be added to your website as an “as seen on” reference. These sorts of references build trust, which then make a visitor more inclined to make a purchase.
Step 1: Identify industry blogs you want to appear in
The first step to getting promoted on an industry blog is to define which blogs you want to appear in.
Let’s start by analyzing how to go about choosing your targeted media.
First things first – the biggest and most visible blogs aren’t necessarily the most effective outlets to boost your store’s sales.
The biggest and most visible blogs aren’t necessarily the most effective outlets to boost your store’s sales.
You should be putting a focus on targeting those stores that speak to your audience, rather than sheer size. In my experience I’ve found that sometimes you can get published in a hugely circulated publication like Mashable or TechCrunch, but the publications that brought in the most sales were the smaller, yet more specifically oriented blogs.
For example, if you’re selling bicycle culture related products, you’d be better off targeting cycling lifestyle blogs. If you sell health-related designs, you should be targeting healthy lifestyle blogs.
How to find those publications is very simple. First of all, you’re probably following some of them. Second, do a Google search outlining your industry + the word “blogs”. For example “health blogs”, “cycling blogs”, “political blogs”, “parenthood blogs” and you’ll get a huge amount of blogs and lists of blogs.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can start with this list of 140 blogs that accept guest posts.
If you have access to SEO products like Ahrefs or Moz, use those tools to see where your competitors are getting the most referrals from. Add those to the list as well, since that means that those publications are already inclined to write about your industry and your type of product.
By the way, here’s a great list of blogging tools worth checking out.
Step 2: Build your pitch list
Open Google docs and create a spreadsheet. In the first five columns write in Publication name, URL, Accepts guest posts?, Editor contact info, Journalist names, Journalist contact info.
In the first column, write in each possible media outlet that your sort of visitor would visit.
In Printful’s case the list would look something like this. With different blogs that speak to entrepreneurs who are looking to develop their ecommerce skills.
You should aim to gather at least 20 different publications to start with.
Step 3: Discover who you’re pitching – the person and their contact info
Once you’ve got your publication list, you’re ready to move onto the next step – figuring out who you’re going to approach. Keep in mind that behind every email address there is a person. And they should be treated accordingly. These people receive tonnes of pitches per day, and the best you can do is to respect their time – no spam, please.
First, go to the publication’s contact page. Some blogs have listed contacts, and that would be the first place to go. Some blogs also have “write for us” or “guest post” sections. Keep an eye out for those as well.
In your spreadsheet, note any publicly available contact info under “editor”.
Next, browse some articles. Pay special attention to articles that could just as well be written about you. Note the journalists. If a journalist’s name popups up more than once writing about a topic that’s relevant to you, write in their name in the “journalists” column.
Click on the journalist’s name. Sometimes publications have journalist profiles, and sometimes those profiles include contact info. If you get their email address, write it into your spreadsheet under “journalist contact info”.
If not, never fear. There are plenty of other methods to find an email address.
- Google their name – Sometimes it’s as simple as a Google search. Journalists may have a personal website that includes their their contact info (hey, Steve O’Hear from TechCrunch even has a “How to Pitch Me” page!). Or maybe they might have contact info listed in their Twitter bio. In any case, it’s worth a look.
- Find them on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is gaining increasing popularity. You can try to add the person to LinkedIn and write them a message. If they’re interested, they’ll accept, and then you can take the conversation to another platform if desired.
- Check MuckRack – this is a platform where there’s a collection of journalists. It’s possible to obtain journalists’ contact info straight from there, though it’s possible that that info is hidden. In that case, you can try pitching them from MuckRack.
- Use Rapportive – a Gmail add on that collects all of the possible information on an individual. Trick: enter as many possible name combinations that might be the person’s email address. For example:
If any of the email guesses are correct, then Rapportive will be able to collect info on them. Then you know that that’s the correct email address. Voila! Watch this video for a demonstration of how that works:
Make sure to fill in all of the contact info in your spreadsheet.
Now you have to choose whether you’ll pitch a journalist your story, or if you’ll write the article yourself. I’ll explain how to do both in the next sections, steps 4A and 4B.
Step 4A: Choose your angle
When writing to a media representative, be it an editor or a journalist, you’re going to have to approach them with a ready-made angle. They don’t have the time to research your business heavily and to discover what might be newsworthy about you. You should come to them with an already-crafted topic that they’re ready to jump on.
Now you’re wondering – how do you do that?
Though this is usually where entrepreneurs get stuck, it’s not as difficult as it seems.
Here are some directions to think about when looking for your angle:
- What is special about your company? Are you doing anything differently than your competitors?
- Is there a social element to what you’re doing?
- Do you have an incredible story about beating the odds? Of perseverance?
- Have you just experienced massive success?
- Do you have any lessons that you can share with others?
Research what the journalist you’re going to pitch tends to write about. Then in your pitch tell them why THEY SPECIFICALLY would be interested in writing about you. Tell them what they can gain. Journalists are people too, who are usually looking to develop their portfolio. Tell them how your story fits in, and how this will be a unique story that’s available only to them. Because journalists like exclusivity as well.
Step 4B: Write your own article
Sometimes when there’s nothing newsworthy about your business itself, it can be a smart move to write your own article, but smartly include a mention to your own company.
Choose your topic
Decided what you’re the authority of, and what you can provide to the world. This will be the central topic of your piece.
Here are some ideas:
- Provide a unique view
- Explain a difficult thing simply
- Write a “how-to” article for their readers
- Write a listicle
- Write about an industry trend and your perspective on it
- Draw interesting conclusions from the data you have available
Write the piece
Some major publications don’t require you to write a piece upfront to pitch it to them, it’s enough to send them an idea and an outline. However in my experience, with a completely fresh writer, you’ll have better chances of being published if you send them the completed article in the beginning. Then they can evaluate if the writing is up to par for their publication, if the content is good, and if the writing style matches their own.
It’s important that the style you write in matches the publication you’re pitching to. Browse the publication and take note of the average length of pieces, or of pieces that have particularly high engagement or shares. Some publications have an audience that prefers shorter pieces, some prefer long pieces, some prefer highly analytical pieces with lots of statistics. Take a look at what they veer towards, and aim to write in the same style.
Find a fresh set of eyes
Often, when writing your own piece, you won’t be entirely sure if the piece is good or not. Not to mention you don’t always find typos in your own written text. For those reasons it’s a must to have a friend or a mentor read through what you’ve written.
Step 5: Write a personalized pitch that will stand out
Regardless of if you’re choosing to approach a journalist with a story idea, or with an already-written article, you’re going to have to send a pitch. Though historically that could’ve been delivered in person or over the phone, the generally accepted industry standard is by email.
It’s important to get the pitch just right, because journalists and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, and you want yours get 1) opened, 2) responded to.
Write an attention-grabbing subject line
You need your email to be opened in the first place, so you need for it to stick out. You can do that multiple ways:
- Use the word “Pitch:” in the front, and follow with the idea. For example: “Pitch: How an online store went from printing t-shirts in the basement to $1mil in a year”. The benefit is that the recipient knows off the bat that this is a pitch, and they go into reading the email with the right expectations, that someone’s about to sell an idea to them. Perhaps they’re looking for an idea for their next article, and then they’ll gravitate to this headline.
- Similarly, if you’re offering your own piece, start with the word “Guest post:” and then continue with the topic of the post. For example: “Guest post: 10 things I wish I knew about starting an online business before I started”
- If it’s relevant only for a limited time, use [TIME SENSITIVE] in the header. For example, if you’re about to launch something the next day , or if your news is only relevant during an event, for example a local fair or, say, the Olympics. For example: [TIME SENSITIVE] How product X is changing how Olympians talk to their fans
There are several ways to get the reader’s attention, but the best way is to be totally upfront about what the contents of the email are. It will only set you up for success.
Here are some examples of successful email subject lines:
DAILY MUSE PITCH: The one common trait of the most productive employees
Pitch: Pokemon Go at the workplace – the impact on productivity
Heads up – we’re launching Printful!
Write an email pitch that will stand out
- Get to the point quickly – possible the best possible advice. People hate having their time wasted. Tell them what you want from them asap. That will be – that you either A) want to have your article published in their publication or B) offer this story as a topic for a future piece.
- Link the name of your company to your website – rather than pasting in the URL, link your store’s name. Don’t make the person have to go searching for your company, you want to make everything as accessible as possible.
- Attach any resources that will speed up the process – if you’re sending your article, attach it to the email. If you have a press release, attach it as well. If you have any high-res images, add a link to a dropbox folder containing them. The aim is to give them all the info necessary to move ahead.
- Ask for a response, even if it’s a no – at the end of the email, ask the person to let you know, even if it’s a “no”. Not only does that build rapport, but you also then know that your email has been read, and you also aren’t left hanging.
Here’s an example of what I sent TechCrunch when we launched Printful 3 years ago:
Notice I provide plenty of links to supporting material, and have an entire section called “Reasons Printful will be big”. Note that there’s a bullet point list, rather than a run-on paragraph. That’s no coincidence. It’s your job to make the pitch as readable as possible.
Step 6: Send out the pitch emails
This sounds really easy and obvious. But not always do these details spring to mind when sending out pitches.
Send out pitches when they’re most likely to be noticed, and therefore opened.
You can do that in several ways. One way is to avoid sending a pitch over the weekend. Most people don’t work on weekends, and emails tend to pile up. You don’t want your pitch to get lost in the pile of collected weekend email.
Similarly, avoid sending out pitches first thing in the morning, or after work hours. The same principle applies – this when most people aren’t regularly checking emails, and your pitch will be in a pile of unread emails when the recipient returns to work.
We usually exclude Fridays from pitching days because as the last day of the week, professionals are usually finishing up their week and gearing up for the weekend.
For these reasons, the best days to send pitches are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The best time to send pitches is between 10am-4pm.
Note: these times apply to the recipient’s time zone, so if you’re located somewhere else, make sure to adapt to their time zone.
Once you’ve got your pitch skills down-pat, send one to each of the contacts you’ve found that are on your pitch list spreadsheet.
As a courtesy, send out the pitches one-by-one, and make sure they’re personalized to each recipient’s needs and interests. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you’re on a big list.
Step 7: Follow up
One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is not to follow up. Unless your recipient has already sent you a “thanks but no thanks”, you’re free to follow up.
Don’t think that this is pushy. Often pitches can be buried, forgotten, or just not the right time for the recipient. By reminding them of yourself, by bringing up the email, you’re giving yourself another shot.
I’ve followed up 3 times before getting a great publication, which then turned into being featured on Mashable.
Definitely worth following up.
Give it a try – you only stand to gain
When it comes to getting your online efforts noticed, online publications go a long way. The effort will bring you increased brand awareness, an influx of visitors to your site (which you should then be putting through your sales funnel – think Facebook retargeting and subscription incentives) and ultimately – more sales.
Give it a try!
Have you had any experience getting featured? Tell us all about it in the comments!