Ranking #1 or #2 for your target keyword is every digital marketer’s dream.
But getting your website to the top of Google takes a lot of work. After investing a lot of time, resources, and brain power to the endeavor, though, it’s actually possible to achieve.
How do I know?
Dmitry Dragilev has done it. And we talked to him about it to get his awesome insights.
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Episode 13: What Needs to Get Done to Rank #1 – Show Notes
This week’s question is:
- [Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months
- Just Reach Out
- Skyscraper Technique
- Domain Authority
- Anymail Finder
I chatted with Dmitry Dragilev, founder of JustReachOut.io, about how he and his team were able to rank for a highly competitive term in a few months’ time. (The technical steps he took are in the Moz case study linked to above, but we talked more about how he approaches the challenge of high-value objectives like this.)
Here’s his insight.
When you run a paid ad, you see the number of click-throughs and the potential increase in site traffic almost immediately. As the campaign runs, you can track how your metrics are improving.
But that’s not how other types of digital marketing channels work. Dmitry said he’s seen a lot of people want their results very quickly when doing SEO or content marketing initiatives, but those successes don’t occur overnight.
These strategies are very effective, but they’re more of an investment, and it’s important to set expectations appropriately.
Set Appropriate Goals
It’s great to want to get mentioned on Inc and know you’re excellent at email pitching and can write about it, but it’s important to consider: How are these actions monetarily tied to your business? What is the impact you’re trying to get out of the initiative?
It can be a personal or professional goal, but you need to identify it. Usually it’s money, but sometimes it’s because you want to be an authority on a topic and you’re approaching it from a personal branding angle.
In Dmitry’s case, he did a great deal of keyword research and marked down how much traffic he expected to get if he ranked on the first page for the different key terms, and then he estimated how many conversions they’d get based on prior conversion rates. Then he considered how many people would convert to an actual customer. All of these efforts helped determine how the marketing initiative would impact revenue overall.
If you don’t have those numbers, you might just want to approximate how much traffic you’ll be getting. You can look up generic conversion rates to further your estimations.
Look at Your Content as a Product
Dmitry looks at anything ranking in Google as a product, and he evaluates his product compared to the ones currently on Page 1. He asks himself: What topics haven’t been covered or haven’t been covered properly?
When they were researching “sales management,” the articles they were looking at were poor user experiences, so even if the content is good, you need to consider the design of the article and how well the information is communicated.
He also considers domain authority to identify which “products” are comparable to his. If very popular brands are ranking, you may not be able to compete.
SEO optimization is a great thing, but there is such a thing as focusing too much on the logistics and not enough on what is actually working with audiences.
For example, getting a lot of links that aren’t actually clicked on isn’t as impactful in Google’s eyes as links that are actually clicked on. Anchor text that’s adjusted to match your target keyword but doesn’t seem as natural is likely to deter people from clicking through. And keyword stuffing a post won’t seem organic, and people will catch on and exit out.
Always ask yourself: Is this adding value? If you get too deep into technical optimization, you might lose out on user experience and content quality.
Build Relationships With Writers/Editors
“Asking someone for a link up front is like telling them you never want to be a friend of theirs ever again,” Dmitry said. “It’s kind of spammy.”
If you want to actually build a relationship, don’t ask for a link immediately. Give them value up front. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
For example, if you see a Quora question and a certain person comes to mind who would be great for answering it, you can refer them to the question so they can get exposure. If they get publicity, they might reach out and you can begin a conversation that leads to future initiatives together.
This kind of approach feels genuine, and that matters.
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Have any additional insight on SEO or any questions for Dmitry? Post it in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Amanda Milligan: Welcome to Ask Amanda About Marketing, a podcast in which I, Amanda, or occasionally a special guest, answer your questions about inbound marketing. Straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get right to it.
Today, I’m joined by Dmitry Dragilev, founder of Justreachout.io and I’m really excited he’s on the show today because we’re going to talk about a case study that came out I think in April on Moz called “How we ranked number one for a high-volume keyword in under three months.”
That is an eye-catching headline if I’ve ever seen one and I think a lot of people are interested in how he was able to accomplish this. So in today’s episode, we’re going to dive into it a little more. I’m going to ask some of the questions I had when I read through and we’re going to close it up by talking a little bit about outreach, how to pitch some of those High Authority publishers he was able to get coverage for, for this article. So Dimitri, first of all, welcome to the show.
Dmitry Dragilev: It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me, Amanda.
AM: Of course. I’m really excited. So just to start out, can you talk a little bit about Justreachout and your position? What are you working on now?
DD: Yeah, I’m a founder of Justreachout. We help SEO professionals, marketing professionals, PR professionals, founders, anybody out there, simply pitch journalists, influencers, bloggers, and build relationships with them through our software. So we’ll give you the reasons why and all the templates to reach out and start building relationships with influencers or anybody out there who has a big audience.
I have a coaching program where—it’s a course in the coaching program called PR The Converts and I help people do the same thing but more hands-on. So yeah, that’s what I do.
AM: Yeah, we’re gonna like I said talk about that more at the end. I love talking about outreach. It’s so crucial to what we do at Fractl as well, and I think a lot of people overlook that part of producing content. So, looking forward to that. Just to start out, to give everybody context in case they haven’t read this case study—which if you haven’t, I highly recommend you check that out if you want all the details about everything they did to accomplish this. But can you give us a little bit of an overview of this case study and maybe about the skyscraper technique, which I think is what you use to achieve this?
DD: Yeah. So outside of just running the software company and doing the course, I still consult. So Pipedrive was one of my clients and we have this case study “How we ranked number one.” We actually outrank Wikipedia for the words “sales management.” That’s a big feat and it was from nothing there until we outranked Wikipedia. We still bounce back and forth. So if you’re listening and you type in “sales management,” you might see us right under Wikipedia.
We also haven’t overtaken position zero but we’re working on it. But it’s a soup-to-nuts study starting from the keyword analysis trying to figure out, jeez, what keyword should we really go after—to creating the content, crafting it, proving it, publishing it, then doing guest writing to link to it. And then just tracking our position all along and talking about like optimization then over-optimizing as well. We ran into issues where we over-optimized for a keyword and then eventually getting to the first spot and just everything that it took, the soup-to-nuts.
AM: Yeah, it’s super interesting and one of the things I wanted to note that you note in the case study is that this is not an overnight type of thing. It took three people almost an entire three months to do it. Have you ever run into this when you’re consulting? That people want things faster than they can get them? Patience is definitely a virtue in SEO, I think.
DD: Oh yeah all the time. Especially in SEO and the content marketing space, people are very impatient. They want their results really fast because they’re used to that mentality with ads. You turn them on, you start to gain traffic. The closest thing that I’ve seen—the weirdest thing—there’s a company out there called Written.com and what they do is they take, say, an old article that’s ranking crazy high, it’s ranking number two and it’s getting tons of traffic, and you can “license” it, quote-unquote.
Meaning, the guy who has that article is going to 301-redirect it to your site. You’re going to copy paste that entire article to your site. And so, that’s the only shortcut in content marketing/SEO space that I’ve seen where you pay money and immediately that content is on your site and you’re starting to get traffic. I think it’s like, not Kosher in terms of Google. It’s kind of weird for Google to be like, this article is from 2012, it’s been here for 5 years, it’s getting all this traffic—oh wait, it moved to this other domain?
So there might be some duplicate content issues, plus it’s licensing so it’s not permanent and so they’ll have to give it back to them. Then someone else is going to license it. Eventually, Google is going to catch on. Unless it’s a permanent licensing—I don’t know. Google will punish that URL at some point. But that’s the closest I’ve seen to a one-stop solution to “I want it now” to, boom—here you go.
AM: Yeah they never seem worth it at the end of the day when you think long-term which is difficult for people. A lot of the time, increasing organic traffic seems to be a matter of several months but it lasts for a long time.
DD: Yeah, this is a lot of investment. They have to pay up-front, three months up-front. There’s a lot of investment into it. You really have to calculate it on their end, like, how much are we going to generate from this article being up there?
AM: Right, so to tie it back into the case study, your goal was to rank number one for “sales management,” that keyword. So, what was your particular marketing goal when you went out to achieve that number one placement for that term specifically? Because your client wasn’t a sales management tool.
And yet you chose “sales management.” So it wasn’t bottom of the funnel, it’s probably around mid-funnel. So what was the logic behind that? Why did you end up choosing that keyword specifically? What do you think are the benefits of a term like that?
DD: Yeah, we did a lot of keyword analysis. That’s something I do a lot of is just do keyword analysis or the client up front so that—I even do that as a its own package where you know, you don’t have to employ my services to help you rank all the way. I’ll just do the little bit where I will research the keyword. I think a lot of times, it’s just useful to think about what is the impact or the impact on the business you want to have.
A lot of people are thinking, it would be nice to be in Fast Company and Inc. and that’s my goal. And I want to be a guest writer for this publication or that and you know, I know a lot about how to cold email or something else and I’d love to write about it. And that’s great. And those are nice goals to have. But how are they monetarily tied to your business or specifically tied to your well-being of your business or you personally? What is the impact that you’re trying to get out of it? And that I think is where it will help you form a goal, right?
So it could be a personal goal or it could be a professional goal. You just need to figure out what it is. In most cases, it’s money, right? It’s like, how many more customers will I get? How much revenue will I get? But sometimes, it might be just a personal goal. You want to be an authority on some topic and you think you’re the best at it and you think everything that is ranking on the first page is not good and that you should do it justice and be number one.
So I guess it really depends whether it’s a personal professional goal. And I don’t know, I always I think I used to be very much—and I still am very much—revenue driven. So I’m always thinking, how much revenue will we get. I’ve always estimated traffic and conversions from that page, from that article into email subscribers and then from there, I want to see the actual revenue number.
So I’m very much strict with it. So what I did is I did estimates of potential annual traffic for “sales management” versus “sales pipeline,” “management sources,” all these different types of—“sales wiki,” “sales manager” all these different related keywords. And from there I said, this is a ballpark of how much traffic I expect to get once we’re on page one and then on the first result and this is how much I plan to convert from this page, judging from all our past data to an actual email sign up.
And then from there, this is how much I plan to convert to an actual paying customer. This is our lifetime value of a customer. That’s where I can measure the impact on the revenue. So we would convert the visit to an actual conversion to paying customer to lifetime value and multiply it out to see how much revenue you get.
And in this case. That’s how we kind of made decisions for what keyword to go after. But a lot of times, people don’t have those numbers and if you don’t have lifetime value or something, you might just want to get to approximately how many how much traffic will I be getting. If you don’t have traffic to email subscriber conversion, look up some generic conversion rates. I mean it like it’ll be single person, do 2% 5% maybe or something very conservative, maybe say start with two percent of your traffic converting to email subscribers, maybe five.
Start there. Maybe that’s how I would always look at that the traffic but try and come up to it with a very tangible goal that you’re going after. The whole process here is you know, you’re going to be on the first page. You want to be the first result. You’re going to get this much traffic. But what is that traffic mean to you? And how directed will it be? What’s this search intent of that traffic? That’s what a lot of times I ask myself—which changes actually a lot of times. I used to rank number one for the word “cold email” and now recently, I saw that somebody’s outranking me with an article that is maybe quarter the size of mine.
I have the best cold email example in my blog post, what’s wrong? And the problem I saw was that the search intent changed. People were looking for cold emails. And so I had the greatest compilation of cold emails you can find on my blog. Well now, the one that’s outranking me, the title of that is “Is cold email spam or not.” And so people now are spending more time looking for that type of information. Google measures, of course, time on site, engagement, “scrollability,” quality of your scroll as people are scrolling through your content.
So that just signals to me, I need to add that to my blog post and that mine would look very complete with all the examples and the fact that whether it’s spam or not if I can include that bit. So the search intent there changes. A lot of times, you want to keep updating your articles or just looking at the search intent of what kind of information is surfacing on the first page of Google and how can you improve upon it and keep tabs on it?
AM: That’s actually a perfect segue to what I was going to talk about next. I was really interested about when you said that you were looking at competitive articles, basically what was already ranking and what kind of content they had and what kind of formatting they had. You pulled an example of one of these articles with so many sub-headers. It was distracting and we decided not to do that.
So when you look at what other competing articles how they’re presented, what kind of information they have, how much of the decision of whether you’re going to implement similar strategies in your own piece is based on personal preference? Because to some degree, you think because it’s ranking, something must be working, right? So a lot of the time you want to incorporate that in your own work. How do you make that decision what you decide to keep because it’s working and that articles ranking? Or deciding that no, this is not that great and I can improve upon this? How does that thought process work?
DD: So I think it starts with the content itself and looking at it as a product. So anything that’s ranking now on Google for any keyword is a product in my sense. I’m evaluating that product versus my product-to-be and so I’m trying to figure out: where is there a hole in somebody’s else’s product? A hole means a topic that’s not covered that needs to be covered, or a topic is not covered properly.
It starts with that. Where I look at in our case, we looked at sales management stuff that was ranking there. Even the Wikipedia page itself. It just wasn’t thorough enough about all the ins and outs of this term. Like what does all the different subtopics of it? And the articles that we were looking at, they were just poor user experiences. In a sense, these blog posts should be good and then potentially amazing user experiences to the point that you can make it.
Meaning no longer do you need to have these huge walls of text, do bucket brigades where you have these two lines: then you might have three bullets and a paragraph, maybe a visual, maybe diagram. So it starts with content where you say, a lot of these posts don’t have very thorough content. And also, you’re looking for poorly designed articles. If you can see articles that are not the best user experience for a person—so meaning a person might read a bit of it then navigate away then come back or maybe leave it as a tab—if they’re not continuously scrolling and if the article is not continuously engaging them with new visuals, something more exciting, more interesting as they keep scrolling a little bit and scanning the article, then you’re not doing a good job at keeping the reader engaged.
And that’s where a lot of articles fail, a lot of the blog posts fail because they think it’s just about the content itself. So they’ll write the rock content and I’ll throw it up there and I’ll put some visuals in and they don’t care about the user experience of reading that article and that’s where I’m trying to improve upon that. So when I evaluate which keywords I want to write about, I’m looking at what topics do I know a lot about where they’ve been covered but they haven’t done a great job in terms of content itself? And then user experience. How is the user experience comparing to mine? What kind of visuals do they have? How do they present the content itself? How are the sections laid out? Is it confusing? Is it navigable?
Navigation is a big thing. Sometimes you can overwhelm the user with tons of info too. So how easy is it to digest? How do people read it and remember the information? How do they refer back to it? Having do they navigate? So there’s a lot of these like little nuances but I always look at it as a different product compared to mine.
And so I do the keyword research there to figure out where—and I also look at Domain Authority, of course. You want to look at something that’s comparable to you. You know, you go after a term like “sales” or something, you might go and see, you’ve got Fast Company and Inc. and Entrepreneur and all these huge domain authorities are ranking up there for it and you might not be on par with them.
But also, it might be very hard to outrank Salesforce for example, but you need to also take into account that a lot of the domains that you’re looking at might be too broad. So like Fast Company are all over the place. They might write about SEO, marketing, or they might write business. And so if your domain is very focused on one specific topic and it’s very niche and it’s got similar Domain Authority but not quite as high, you might have a decent shot at it.
The other thing is don’t forget Spanish and Portuguese. People forget that the competition in Spanish is way less—you can rank in Spanish way faster. And so think about that. There’s the Google translate out there and you can certainly translate a lot of words. I am working on the project now that we’re doing Portuguese and there’s amazing content writers important in Brazil. I work with—the guys at Rock Content.
They’re really good and they specialize in this stuff and it’s easier to rank and it easier to pick up traffic. So that’s the process—really weighing your product against what’s ranking on the first page, figuring out how the user experience is going to stack up against these great experiences there, comparing speeds of sites, yours versus theirs using Google page insights. I use that all the time just to stack up yours against theirs.
AM: Yeah. I think that’s a really great breakdown. I love the perspective of thinking of it like a product because I think that puts you into a completely different mindset in that even if something is ranked number one now or it’s a product that is supposedly the best right now, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon and all these ways you’re talking about finding those things to improve is really interesting and I think will be really valuable for people.
So we talked a little bit about how you come up with how you’re going to structure content and what you’re actually going to create, let’s talk about the SEO optimization portion of it. And you have in the case study, there’s a lot of specific details about how to optimize and if that’s what you’re looking for, definitely check the case study out.
But the thing I wanted to focus on today was something that you mentioned in the case study that was the most surprising to you, which was that you were over-optimizing for the keyboard which you mentioned earlier. So, can you talk a little bit about how the Google Hummingbird update affected the way you approach this and what you did when you found out that the over-optimization was actually detrimental?
DD: Yeah, so we’re really excited right and like everybody is you start moving through search results on Google and you end up just sending a lot of excited emails to your team like, whoa third page, wow, second page. And so really excited. We were doing all sorts of stuff. For example, we have a lot of links to us. And so we would already—before we wrote this piece of content.
So we would go back to people have linked to us and say, “Hey listen, can you link back to this blog post that we wrote” and people say sure I guess. And they would add a link or they would change the existing link that would point to the blog post domain. And then they say, “Yeah. That’s awesome. We’re accumulating some more links to this post.” Then we’ll be like, just change the anchor text to be /sales-management/ in that link. And so some people would do that and sometimes it wouldn’t make sense, but they would kind of stick it in there anyway.
When they refer to us, they would refer to Pipedrive as a CRM tool and we’d be like, no, like “sales management.” So they would be like, oh “Sales Management CRM tool.” So it was weird too to put that in. What I learned is that a link on its own doesn’t really matter unless it’s getting clicks. And a link that’s getting clicks and traffic, that’s the link—and if it’s a follow link—that’s the link that is going to matter in terms of you helping you rank basically.
So in other words, Google doesn’t really care about links that are just there. I mean, it’s nice and it takes it into account but I don’t see much impact from links that are just there. It’s more like a quantity game and that doesn’t really work anymore. But quality links are the ones that are getting actual click-throughs. We started noticing that.
We also started noticing that we just overdid it in terms of looking at nailing—our keyword density like, oh my God, our keyword density is not a hundred percent. We gotta add more sales management in there. Now we’re crazy about Yoast. Yoast was telling us all this stuff, right? They’re like, oh you gotta add “sales management” to your H2s. We got to stick it in this part, sales manager.
We did a lot of stuff to only link back to it with anchor text “sales-management” only. Our headers were “Sales Management.” Our H2s were “Sales Management,” When we’re running ads on that, we only were using the word “Sales Management.” When we talked about it we used “Sales Management.” In our newsletters and Twitter—we were on page 3 or 2 and we were just stagnant for a while and then we started to drop a little.
And I was looking at it and I was like, something isn’t right because we’re doing everything right. It kind of hit me that it’s just looking kind of superficial, the whole thing. Like I can’t be that every single link organically would have the same anchor text of “sales management” and it can’t be that this term was mentioned every time in all the guest posts and link back near there at the similar time with the word “sales management.”
The world doesn’t revolve this way. Google can probably read what we’re doing here. We really were going over the top with it. It needs to be somewhat not optimized. It can’t be fully crazy optimized the way we did it. We went back and we were like, screw it. All those links that were like, change our homepage link to sales management. Let’s change them back to what they used to be and the links where we linked up our post—let’s link it up, not in a spot where we can put the word “sales management” but in a spot where it actually adds value.
So what we did for the guest posting portion of getting some inbound links, what we did is initially we just stuck a link there. Like we just need a link here, this is awesome. And then we’re like, no it doesn’t actually add value to the post, you know, this spot.
Because the whole process is that you repurpose part of your behemoth of a post on your own blog into a guest article. So you take one section of it and you write a guest post for say Fast Company and then what you would naturally do and that’s what we ended up doing is you would link back to your original post on your own blog when you say, hey, there’s more information about this specific topic that I briefly discussed here.
And that’s the type of click that you would actually get that would mean something to Google because people would read our post on Fast Company, they would engage with it, and they wouldn’t have enough information. And so they would click on that link to come back to our blog post.
So, we found out that type of linking back helped us. They basically get the actual traffic a little bit higher from the clicks versus just zero or like two or three. We also took out some of the optimizations on the page itself, took out the word. We were mentioning the word a little too much on the blog post and on our own blog we found that taking that out. We didn’t use too many tools to analyze the stuff. It was very like a gut feeling type of stuff that we just looked at it as if—we want it to be organic.
We didn’t want it to be engineered so much, even though we engineered the process. We just wanted to make it look as if it’s natural. Any kind of linking we would do, we would always link internally and also externally with different anchor text and it doesn’t even matter. It might be this post for example or something like that and you link back to “sales management” post so that it doesn’t—the anchor text thing and also the keyword density and H2s—it just balanced that out and I think that helped a lot.
There’s a lot of comments in there that I answered that were asking about specifics of things. We also used Market Muse I mentioned in there to really take a look at what content we needed to add to be stronger towards our competitors. Market Muse does a good analysis of figuring out, all right, you’re ranking pretty good. But your competitors are really strong in this one area. If you add this one area of content into your post, your post is going to outrank them. And so we just used that to improve specific points in the article to make it stronger in terms of content.
AM: I think that makes sense to use tools. But then also you can’t underestimate the gut feeling when you’re talking about how people are going to react when they see your content, right? You’re putting yourself in the shoes of somebody who’s just happening upon an article and if your instinct is that it has too many keywords or something’s just off and that’s something you should definitely take into consideration, right? That all makes a lot of sense.
It was just interesting to see because you did an actual experiment around it to show that having too many keywords is actually detrimental. You see that a lot—you see it recommended to have it so many times. I think the stat that’s in the case studies that you had a hundred percent increase in traffic in six months. So that’s the answer we’re looking for, right? You can do too much.
DD: I found that out by experience. I also read a lot about it and I never really encountered that too much. And so that made me think about all the other posts that I’ve been trying to optimize to make sure that it’s not overly optimized for it.
AM: So you said that you guys were reaching out to do guest posts and just get links back from different publications, but let’s talk about some of the really high-quality sites that you got coverage on I think on Semrush I see Entrepreneur, Business Insider. I’ll link back to that article. So how is that approach is different from the typical guest posts that you reach out to?
DD: Yeah, I mean like I’m kind of mentioned a little bit earlier, but the process here was, you take a portion of your article or something else that you know about. So in our case, we actually took other stuff that we know about that relates to our goal. It needs to be a natural kind of almost upgrade click to your article.
So you write about something that relates to your original article on your own blog. You want people to read a little bit about it. And if they want more information, click the link and come to your article to check it out and see if there’s any other information you have that might be useful for them. And so it’s more like a clickbait but it’s not in a sense where you’re just showing them a title and say hey, come over to my blog.
It’s you’re actually writing another piece of content that’s somewhat related to your own blog. You just want them to click over. The process was, you know, we wrote for Inc. and wrote for LinkedIn blog. Outside of that, we also did a number of others: Fast Company and Inc.
We saw the process as we were writing the article. We were also brainstorming. I always like to do this when I consult the five to six pieces of guest articles outside of the actual main behemoth on the blog itself. Five or six and we want those links in those five or six guest posts in a strategic spot where people are thirsty and salivating for more information on this specific topic.
Such as, hey, if you want to see the actual templates, click here for more details and people click over. I just wrote a Semrush article on using guest posting as a link building strategy and that’s where like I talked a lot about this linking. It just needs to make sense for people to click over because you want a link that’s not just there but also has clicks for it.
They outreach process—what I typically do is I look if I don’t have a contact at a publication, I always look at who’s the contributor there already. I try to build up some kind of relationship with them. So I might comment on their articles. I might ask them a question about what they’re doing. But my end game there is just to ask them who’s the right person to talk to as an editor. If I see somebody contributing somewhere and it’s been recently published, chances are that person knows a recent editor or somebody who’s at the publication that they’re chatting with and then I should be chatting when I write about submitting my article.
That’s really how we did it. We did some loose outreach in there and there’s some templates in the case study about how we did that. It was mainly around the topic of Sales Management. It was just kind of striking up a conversation. Hey, you’ve written about sales management. We just published this thing on Sales Management. It’s gotten this many shares. I wanted to connect, hear your thoughts about it.
We would look at who has shared a specific article in sales management or written a specific article on the topic and we would just ask them for their feedback. A lot of times people would just say awesome. They will share it. Sometimes people would link back to ours but I would say this was more like a relationship-building tactic to see if there’s somewhere that we can do some guest posting and ask people who are contributors to see if they would tell us, specifically if they’ve written about the same topic as you were writing about somewhere else and possibly they might have an interest. They might tell you the name of the person who’s the right contact there. And from then on, you can guess their email. I love the software. We use a lot of different APIs and tools like AnyMailFinder or Interstellar, something like that.
AM: So when you talk about relationship building, I think you’ve already spoken to a couple of the really valuable parts of building relationships with writers. I kind of want to close on this just because you’d mentioned you teach classes on this and you’re really emphasizing how to build relationships. What is the importance of not just getting that one link or getting that one guest post to somebody but actually starting to build a relationship with a writer? Y
DD: Yeah. I think everybody for some reason is driven by ambition and I think in our society we are not trained to look at our internal resources or our mind and heart and are trained towards success and ambition a little too much. So we’re thriving for success this weird word success or happiness or whatever. But when you achieve that success when you’re up there and you’re like the people that we all want to be like—those people are looking at people who are like eternally smiling and cheerful walking down the street and they’re like, what is it that these people have these ordinary people have that I don’t have? I am going all this money and fame, but I don’t have what they have.
And I think that’s where searching for character becomes really important in people’s lives and also internal resources like heart and mind. I say all this because building a one-to-one relationship with somebody—it goes deeper than just getting a link. A link doesn’t really do much for you. So if you’re trying to figure out how to sustainably grow, sustainably go forward, asking somebody for a link up front is like telling them you never want to be a friend of theirs ever again because it’s kind of spammy.
It’s like we are standing on the corner and you have this ad or you’re trying to sell something you’re jumping in front of people, you try and get their attention, try to sell something to them. That’s just annoying to somebody and so if you want to gain trust and do something with that publication or that influencer or that blog, don’t ask for the link or the promotion or whatever. It may be upfront.
Go and build that relationship so that you give them value upfront so that they ask you how they can repay you for something. It takes time and effort and that you don’t get anything up front for it and you really want something up front now because you’re getting paid by somebody to get results. You’re not paying for dating or making friends or something out there.
It’s important because at least in my world, all owe my success so far things like 10 years and I’ve been through two acquisitions with startups and this is am working on this company now and I hope to get it acquired sometime in the future. I don’t know maybe in a few years or something, but everything that I’ve done has been as a result of providing value upfront to somebody and doing that so much that the person has nothing to return but hey, can I help you somehow.
That’s where the most powerful “thank you” might come, you know, like you might not get a link for like a few months or three months, but you might get a whole lot more than the link after a few months of helping somebody. It feels genuine and feels right and it doesn’t feel odd. Even if you get that link, that person doesn’t know you. So they’re going to stick a link anywhere they can to just get you off their back and keep going, right? That link is not going to get you that much publicity or exposure like if you get a mention or just to get somebody off your back.
It’s just not as genuine. And also it doesn’t give you as much. Building real relationships where you’re helping somebody on a profile like you’re their assistant or whatever—you have data for them or interesting tidbits would really help. I teach this a lot in the course, relationship building and specifically conversation starting and going to relationship building.
I do a lot of these little Quora hacks where I would answer a Quora question and I would reference somebody and I would say hey, listen, I tried to promote some of your stuff that you’ve written in this answer, but I don’t know your topic that well. Can you do it justice? That a person says well, thank you so much. Then they might also post an answer on that Quora thread. Then I might promote one of the Quora threads on Facebook and I might do boosting, or I might do some ads for it to get them a little traffic. Eventually, they’ll be like, oh, wow. I got some publicity exposure on it. This is great and they might ask you something else and you guys might correspond about something and you might ask him to interview them. So you might build a relationship with somebody that way. The endgame might be completely different, but it was a strong relationship so that they can promote you down the line but don’t just make it about you and promoting you.
AM: Yeah, it’s like any kind of real-life interaction with somebody, any kind of real friendship or relationship. In the past we’ve had people on our outreach team—I think somebody was invited to one of the writer’s weddings. Like that’s how much they had communicated and how much it becomes a human interaction. I think people often forget that you’re not sending an email to just a brand or an entity, you know, it’s a person who’s answering that email and to connect with them on a human level is going to be so much more impactful and just enriching for both of you.
DD: People just hide behind email. It’s kind of crazy. I’ll tell all my students —would say this that to person and they would read them email out there like definitely not. Why would you write it to them? Let’s reread it or rewrite it and every time they do that exercise, when they read the email out loud and the conference room or something, it would make them rewrite it.
AM: That’s a great way to test that to just literally read it out loud and be like, but I never actually say this is somebody.
DD: It can be so awkward. Some of the emails we write because it’s very like straight to the point. I was just talking to somebody they were using G2Crowd. It’s a reviews site. G2Crowd. And what happens is you have all these people who review this software. It’s very targeted for salespeople, right? So, salespeople, you’re trying to sell lead generation software? Well go look at all your competitors, see who’s reviewed you and contact them and be like, hey, you reviewed this competitor of ours. They suck. We rock. Check us out. Salespeople are doing this all the time and I’m like, this is just so weird.
When would you come up to somebody at a conference and be like, hey, I thought you reviewed this product. You know, what we do. We kind of do the same thing. Check us out. Well, he’s like so awkward and weird like what but email like, yeah. A guy shoots out a hundred emails a day. You gotta get some responses.
AM: It takes a lot of time too and it’s so much less effective when you really look at the numbers. Dmitry, thank you so much. I really appreciate you going through every step and the perspective you brought at each stage and hearing your point of view. I really appreciate you being on the show!
DD: Thank you and if anyone has any other questions about the show, I’m always down to answer some more.
AM: Absolutely, if anyone has any questions, leave them in the comments and tweet at either of us. If you send it to me, I’ll make sure Dmitry gets it and follow up. I look forward to seeing more case studies and the work you do in the future!
DD: Oh thanks!
AM: Thanks again for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, click subscribe. Don’t leave me with the realization that I’m talking to no one and please rate and review on iTunes so I can keep making this podcast better and your lives easier. Take care.