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"This is the same template our team uses to secure content features and links from Wired, Boingboing, Apartment Therapy and more."

Gisele Navarro

Operations Director at NeoMam Studios

Coming up with content ideas that will make anyone care enough to link is hard work.

When I first started NeoMam, every project we produced was a result of one of my ideas.

As the years went by, I got everyone involved in generating ideas but I was always the one deciding whether an idea had potential to attract big links.

If I wanted to scale the agency, it was very clear that I needed to let go so I trained up people who were dedicated to just this step in the process.

But last year everything changed when Mark Johnstone hosted a virtual workshop on idea generation for the team and I joined them. His course reignited my passion and I decided it was time to get involved in client work again.

Whilst it reduced my time available for marketing activities and other founder stuff, it’s been great to get back to doing something I love doing – similar to how Gisele feels about being back to promoting content.

I’ve always liked to use frameworks to avoid the time-wasting rabbit holes and all-too-common pitfalls of idea generation so as soon as I was back, the first order of business was to update them.

In our early days of infographics, I found that identifying different types helped me generate new ideas. Later on, I was certain that uncovering new formats was key to moving our agency towards ideas we have never thought of before.

It took me a few weeks to go through past campaigns and review content produced by other teams, but after all that, I was ready to update our framework.

Throughout the 4000 words that comprise this guide, you’ll learn the unspoken rules I follow at NeoMam to ensure every campaign has the very best chance to succeed.

I will share with you the NeoMam rules for idea generation and I know that you will not agree with all of them. 

That’s why I made sure to include real-world examples to accompany these do’s and don’ts and hopefully that will help you at least understand the reasons behind the rules.

If you have experience creating content for links, then you’ll find value in our experiences as this is not a newbie’s guide.

That being said, if you’re just getting started with link building with content, please read on; these rules will help you avoid some of the most costly ideation mistakes everyone makes at least once.

Let’s get to it.

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A short disclaimer before we get started: There’s a big fat chance that I’ve added “digital PR” as a skill on LinkedIn or that I’ve used it when writing my bio for a site. The reason why I’ve used “digital PR” is because “digital PR” has become a keyword that people use when they are searching for link builders who can get links from big media sites. And I am one of those people.
Okay, let’s do this.

A couple of months ago Danny asked me to write an article about digital PR so that we could rank for the term.

After researching what content already exists about the topic, I realised that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation around the relationship between PR, digital PR and SEO, more specifically between digital PR and link building.

If you google ‘what is PR’ you’ll learn that:

“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It looks after reputation, with the aim of earning support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish goodwill between an organisation and its publics.”

If you google ‘what is link building’ you’ll read multiple rewrites of the same thing:

“Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website.”

And if you google ‘what is digital PR’ you’ll find definitions that are less straightforward:

“Sometimes called link building, digital PR involves creating content with a unique hook and outreaching to journalists in order to get link. It sits where public relations and SEO blend into one another.”

“Digital PR centres around people and how you can make them feel something. Examples of this include shocking statistics, fun quizzes and stories on current topics that will help, inform or entertain your consumers.”

“Digital PR is essential to business growth if you’re looking to attract new customers, raise your company’s profile or increase your organic search ranking on Google.”

So, is digital PR a type of link building with content that can help you tackle both your SEO and PR goals at the same time?

Let’s talk.

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The short answer: Because I like it.

But that wouldn’t make for an interesting read, now, would it? You’re here because you are curious about what this post is all about and it can’t be just that.

It’s not.

This post was inspired by a chat I had with a colleague who is now a director of an agency and misses pitching content like she used to. She’s doing a bunch of new things and outreach had to be delegated.

I totally understand because when I was made a director at NeoMam, I did the exact same thing. At the time, I believed that I had to delegate the day-to-day and focus on the big picture. So I did just that.

I hired a bunch of people. I overhauled our processes. I put all my focus on what was next for the agency.

Every now and again, I would sneakily send a few outreach emails and run little tests on the side. And every time it felt like coming back home.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

I was one of the directors now. There were bigger things on my plate, so I needed to focus and let go.

We did great work during those years. We revamped the way we produced content, experimented with a bunch of new formats and landed the biggest accounts we’d ever had.

This getting out of the day-to-day thing was paying off.

I was a business grown up now, running around from directors meetings to client calls, and from weekly catch-ups to project debriefs. Forecasting the future and revising the past to inform the present.

I hated it.

The thoughts kept crippling in, “maybe I don’t care about this anymore.”

Eventually people left or hires didn’t work out and I had to go back to promoting content. It was stressful, and awesome. I was back to doing the one thing that I like to do most in the entire world. My thing. Outreach.

Soon enough capacity issues would be sorted and I would go back to my Ops Director seat.

Back to hiring and planning. Back to coaching and training. Back to another kind of day-to-day work, one where you rarely see the results of your efforts materialise in front of you straight away.

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The good news is that the big newspaper you’ve been pitching stories to for months has finally decided to feature your content.

The bad news is that you didn’t get a link. Yes, your brand was mentioned. Yes, the content was credited back to your client. But the sad truth is that your precious link is nowhere to be found.

If you build links primarily through content, you probably have felt the pain of an unlinked brand mention many times before.

At this point, most of us will move on and be grateful that at least they credited the content properly.

“That’s okay, I’m sure more sites will pick it up and some of them might link back to our site.”

“Well, we didn’t get the link but this is will be great for brand awareness.”

“It’s all good, I read somewhere that brand mentions may have some impact on how Google evaluates website authority.”

Here’s the deal:

If you’re reading this article, then chances are you’re producing and promoting content with the one goal of getting links.

You don’t do this thing day-in-day-out just to build brand awareness or in the hopes that perhaps that unlinked brand mention will trigger lots of links someday.

So don’t give up so easily.

In this article, we’ll put a twist to a quintessential link building technique to help you convert those brand mentions into links, and we’ll discuss things you can do to minimise the chances of journalists sharing your content without linking back to your site.

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“Your content is crap.”

Ouch, that stings a little, doesn’t it?

But getting honest feedback for your content is key if you want big links in 2018.

And the big problem?

Most people just want to be nice to you.

Clients will tell you “the infographic looks great.”

Colleagues will smile and nod.

But here’s the deal:

You need super harsh feedback from people who don’t care about your feelings.

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Happy new year to everyone.

Before the end of last year I reached out to a number of in-house SEO’s who I thought were doing some really interesting things with content during 2017.

At NeoMam, most of our clients are in-house SEO teams and I am always impressed with the work they do.

Unfortunately, you rarely read about them on industry sites.

It makes sense, though, as there is far less of an incentive to share this type of work when you are in-house because you don’t need to win clients like agencies do.

I hope that this post and future ones can help to highlight some of the great work being produced by in-house teams around the world and provide some inspiration for your content marketing plans this year.

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‘But Danny, it’s just not relevant enough to our business!’

This was the pain of my existence working as a freelancer, trying to come up with content ideas that would get links.

Over the years, since starting in SEO in 2006, this has never gone away.

Let’s be honest.

If you were not buying links in 2006, then you were not a proper SEO.

But even then, we worried about relevancy.

When you bought links, you made sure the content was as relevant as it could be to the site you were linking to.

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Some people in our industry really hate infographics.

I’ll be honest:

I never woke up one day and said “I want to create a couple thousand infographics.”

But I did like getting top tier links for our clients and at the time, infographics were the best tool to achieve this.

The reason was simple: Most publishers didn’t have the design capability in-house but they knew that readers love this type of content so the marketers could fill in the gap and in exchange get exposure for their clients.

And this was the reason why we chose to double down and only produce infographics for the last couple of years.

Fast forward to 2017 and visual content is no longer new.

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Do you ever wonder how you manage to get anything done in SEO?

It seems each year – heck, each week! – there is a new tactic everyone NEEDS to implement, and a handful that have fallen out of favour.

This is especially true when it comes to outreach or digital PR, or whatever new jargon phrase is cool right now for talking about link building.

I am talking about the process of reaching out to people who manage websites and getting them to feature your content with a link.

I’ll be honest:

When I first started promoting content, the idea of reaching out to “real people” over email seemed alien.

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2016 has been a hell of a year.

Brexit.

Trump elected president.

But more importantly, what has been going on with NeoMam?!

When working in the fast-paced agency world, it’s easy to spend all your time looking into the future and missing out on what is going on around you.

With this post, I want to spend some time to look back and highlight the biggest decisions we made as an agency in 2016.

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