Deputy Digital Editor at ELLE
Once upon a time, the content you’d find on a website for a glossy magazine would be almost identical to what you’d find in its print pages. Those days are no more – in fact the chasm between the type of content that goes online, and the articles in the print edition grows wider all the time. For this reason, it’s important to modify your ideas and how they are presented when you pitch to digital teams. Body copy formats, editorial ‘angles’, assets, real-time data, affiliate revenue opportunities – you need to take all of it into account when pitching to online, to show teams that your story has the ‘checkpoints’ digital articles need to display in order to meet Google’s requirements.
Confused already? Don’t be. Read on for my easy checklist of everything that you need to include in your pitches to digital editors to improve the chances of your products, experts and stories being featured.
A good story
The most important question we ask before anything else is: is it a good story? This is the same for any publication, in any format, so won’t be new to you guys. We’ll always judge the strength of a story on the news hook or trend that makes the piece relevant to the present day (eg. a new report, study, statistics), and the angle that makes the idea original to our publication.
Now more than ever Google is discerning of reputable and reliable sources of information online – and rightly so. One of the ways it does this is by scanning articles for expert quotes. As a result, it’s crucial to pitch not only your idea, but a well-known and trustworthy expert that will compliment your story. Include information explaining why they’re a specialist in their field (certain qualifications, awards they’ve won, books they’ve written etc), and whether or not we’re able to have time to talk to them directly.
When thinking how to make your pitch different from your competitors, consider including search volumes of certain keywords and search terms to help show a digital editor why they should be writing about the topic now. Online publications rely on analysing search terms for search engine optimization (SEO) to highlight topics to focus on, ‘own’ as a brand, and weigh up their true popularity for readers. The higher a search volume, the more likely it is that we’ll want to cover the topic, and get ahead of the curve.
Whether it’s stock, flat-lay or editorial, every publication will require different images for different pieces of content. That’s why it’s important to always include a URL containing high res images via a website like Dropbox or Google Drive that doesn’t have an expiration date. For extra brownie points, rename images with SEO-approved keywords and search terms. We do this routinely in order to improve the articles’ metadata on Google – if you do it for us, we’re always grateful, and it makes images far easier to navigate or search for in our inboxes.
Nowadays the majority of online editorial publications will work with affiliate platforms, which monetise product links, and offer a Cost Per Action (CPA) rate. So, every time a reader clicks through from an article to buy a product, the publication gets a percentage of the cost. Digital teams will use these platforms to see where they can make money, and plan their content accordingly.
It’s worth mentioning in a pitch if your brands/products feature on these platforms (Skimlinks is the big one), and what rate of commission they offer. High rates are not a ticket to coverage, but it is helpful to know.
Now you’ve got all those elements sorted, you’ve just got to deliver your pitch at the perfect time. While there’s no set time in the working day that’s best for digital journalists to receive pitches, always keep in mind their editorial SEO calendar and think about when publications might be prioritising updating or writing content ahead of money-making opportunities, such as Black Friday or seasonal holidays – hello, Christmas!
You should also always check the published date on articles. If something hasn’t been updated in a while, it’s the perfect time to pitch. If it’s recently been updated, it’s unlikely the writer will be updating it again anytime soon. However, you can still make the journalist aware that you’ve spotted it’s been updated recently, and that as/when they come to do it again, here’s something they might want to include.
Finally, don’t forget the basics: if your pitch has product suggestions or a lookbook, send the attachments in a PDF or in a link that can be downloaded easily (include the URL and GBP price point). And keep it positive, pleasant and sharp – friendly, rather than overfamiliar, a major turnoff regardless of the story.
Tick all these boxes, and it makes a big impact – you’ll make your pitch very difficult to ignore, and your name very difficult to forget.