Interview with Ann Smarty: How to Outreach More Effectively and Adapt to Changes in SEOFrom Experts
Our team has attended 8P conference and met Ann Smarty, founder of Viral Content Bee and Brand Manager in the SEO agency Internet Marketing Ninjas. She kindly answered a few questions about her experience and shared a few tips.
1. How do you filter requests for guest posting? What is the key ingredient of a good pitch?
I exist on both sides. I’m a guest blogger myself and I still receive a lot of requests about guest posting for old times’ sake when I was an editor at SearchEngineJournal. Let’s suppose that I receive 100 letters a day. If I read all of them, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. So I respond only to people whom I know or to personal introductions. I pay attention to the intro-email when someone I know asks to introduce them to anyone. And I do exactly the same when I need to pitch my article. I open LinkedIn and look for the mutual connections in the company. Then I message people I know and ask them to introduce me to the editor. When I was an editor, I started the best columns this way.
Letters from strangers fall into spam or are left unopened. Even if they come from great and famous people, an editor can miss them.
Also, follow ups come in handy. Of course, if they are real, not automatic. In case the first letter is missed, the follow up can help.
2. What can you suggest for the most effective outreach?
I suggest finding editors on social media. LinkedIn messages are often left unread. But if you find editors on Facebook or Twitter, follow them. I have twitter lists of people I want to stay in touch. It’s important to be on editors’ radar. So there are more chances that they will notice your letter. At the same time, when I was an editor, the best columnists I worked with were found by myself.
3. Now you are a Brand Manager in the SEO agency ‘Internet Marketing Ninjas’. Do you provide SERM services and if yes, what tactics do you prefer?
Yes, we do. Reputation management in organic search has become complicated, because now you see photos and reviews for the brand queries. YouTube works very well. We subtract the negativity using video reviews. We upload videos with the brand name on YouTube. Google likes YouTube, videos occupy the top, and it distracts attention pretty good. This is the first step we always do.
4. Have you got any underestimated marketing strategies that made you change your mind?
Infographics. I always thought that Internet is oversupplied with infographics and there is no sense to create them. We’ve started creating them a few years ago in the agency to diversificate link profile. For example, ‘step-by-step’, ‘top list’ infographics. They work like a charm and bring links. However, I’ve always thought that everybody is fed up with them.
What if somebody steals your infographic?
You can check it. For example, using Serpstat’s hotlinks. It helps when the stolen picture is still on your domain.
5. Google loves updating its SERP. For example, zero results or featured snippets. What can you suggest content marketers/managers to optimize their content and adapt to innovations?
You can’t adapt to ALL innovations. Google creates featured snippets in an interesting way. It uses schema markup (if you have it), and everything that can be important, for example, an author’s name, ratings.
One of the most effective ways to create content is using H2, H3 subheadings. Surprisingly, Google still uses optimized subheading. For example, frequently we see that the featured snippet is created from the result with optimized subheadings. Google extracts the result based on the relevant question in the subheading and the answer under it. Well-structured articles with subheadings using keywords, it really helps. However, I’ve always thought that this is an outdated tactic. But if we optimize article with subheadings, it will occupy higher positions and Google may start ‘featuring’ it.
6. What ways do you use to spread your content? Which ones are the most effective?
I use my resource Viral Content Bee. Also, I use Quora. It covers a lot of different topics and is personalized. Quora will suggest you questions to answer if you are a specialist in the topic. This is the second traffic resource of my website.
7. According to Rand Fishkin’s research, an organic CTR has significantly dropped due to ads, zero results, and other innovations in search. What do you think about it? Is this fact a canary in the coal mine for SEO specialists or everything is ok?
I don’t see any alternatives to Google in digital marketing for now. I’ve used social media. They don’t bring such quality traffic as the search. You can try to get traffic from forums, but you need to be constantly involved in it. So as long as the search, even voice search, exists, SEO will exist. I can’t imagine how people will search anything without the search engine, how Internet will look like in 30-40 years. Definitely, some form of search will exist to help people find information. I should accept that now SEO is less effective than 10 years ago when you just needed to buy links. Now it’s more complicated, results are not as good as they used to be, but it still drives the best traffic.
8. You have kids, family and you’re successful in your career. What is the most important factor in your work / life balance?
My case is simple. I didn’t have to choose. My business was born at the same time as my child. And they have been quite organically growing together. If I was a mom and then decided to start a project, I would have to think twice. But everything started simultaneously and worked out well.
My advice to people who think that there is no time for family or to start a project – there will never be enough time. I remember that at the university I didn’t have work and kids, but I still felt that there’s no time. The more you do, the more wisely you manage your time. That’s why don’t wait until you’ll have time, just do it. Start doing. How you will start, depends on you. I was writing articles with one hand and holding my child with the other. That’s how I managed it. So you’ll puzzle out everything on the way. There’s no one receipt for everybody in the world, just don’t be afraid. Life is very short and you can wait for balance and appropriate time all your life.