As a professional blogger, I cover a lot of websites, products, and services online. And time and again I have to overlook some offerings because of simple things that stand in my way of providing proper coverage. These are things that any website owner or business can do, often with very little effort. But if your website doesn’t follow these guidelines, it might be enough to make a blogger skip over you and cover your competition instead.
Read on for six simple things you can do to increase the likelihood of having your company featured by bloggers. These are primarily on-site things you can do, and don’t require any schmoozing. They’re just things you can do to make a blogger’s job easier, and increase the chance that they’ll be able to feature your offerings in their next blog post.
1. Include Screenshots and/or Product Photos
There’s nothing more annoying, as a writer and blogger, than finding what sounds like a fantastic product or service and not being able to get access to a high-quality product photo or screenshot. As a blogger who often works on tight deadlines, I don’t necessarily have time to email you and ask for a screenshot. And there have been countless times when I’ve had to leave a company or product out of an article because I didn’t have immediate access to a screenshot.
This also means that those tiny screenshots or partial screenshots of your product aren’t acceptable. Most blogs have main content areas that are at least 500 pixels wide, and some are as high as 700 or 800. If the only screenshots on your site are 300 pixels wide, they’re not going to work. The same can be said for product photos. Make sure you have at least one or two high resolution product photos that I can download from your site.
While you’re at it, consider making available a high-resolution logo and/or photos of your founder, CEO, and other key employees. You never know what a blogger might be looking for, and what their timetable is for completing a piece. The more you make available to them, the higher your chances are for being included.
Macmillan, the book publisher, makes a point to provide high-resolution versions of the cover images for all of their books. This is fantastic for book bloggers, who might be doing reviews of their books and want to include a high-quality cover image, but are intimidated by the thought of asking the publisher for an image, since they feel like they’re not an “official” reviewer. But these smaller book blogs can result in hundreds or even thousands of sales for a book, and added together, can make a big difference in the success of a book.
2. Offer a Demo or Free Trial
This is most applicable if you’re offering software, either online or as a download. A free trial or demo is a great way to let bloggers or journalists get an inside look at what you’re offering, to see if it’s worth covering.
The other big advantage to a demo or free trial is that it makes it easier for bloggers to do more in-depth reviews of your application. Again, bloggers are often on tight deadlines and are working with little or no budget (even the big bloggers), and don’t want to wait around for you to provide them with a free trial or demo account.
As a blogger, I find demos are handier than free trials, if only because I don’t have to sign up for an account. In a lot of cases, I’m not your target market, so you don’t care about capturing my email address or other information. A demo account that’s already populated with some data is even handier, because I can get a better feel for how your app actually works in production. Then again, your prospective customers may prefer a free trial, as it lets them try it on their own terms.
Magento, the ecommerce platform, offers a demo of both their front-end and back-end. The only downside is that they require registration before you can view the demos.
3. Have a Press/Media Page
The press, including bloggers, are often interested in information about your company that your average customer might not care about. We want to know things about how many customers you have, who your CEO is, and what your goals for the company are. We also want to know the nitty-gritty details, like the timeline of your company or any partnerships you have with other organizations.
Facebook is one company that has a fantastic online press room. They provide virtually anything a blogger or journalist could want to know, all organized in way that makes it easy to find pertinent information. While not every company is going to have the wealth of information available that Facebook has, it’s still a great example to look at and to use as a guideline for creating your own press area.
4. Make Sure I Know What Your Site is All About
All too often, I land on a site that has no clear purpose. Sure, I get the idea that it does something useful to lawyers, or accountants, or some other industry, but that’s about it. Unless I’m intimately familiar with that industry, I can’t really tell what the company does. This is especially important if your company name or product name doesn’t really say much about what your product or company does.
Make sure that your home page has a clear statement that tells casual visitors what the site is all about. If nothing else, it at least keeps people who aren’t your target customer from wasting time on your site.
37signals is excellent at making it clear what their products do. Take Basecamp, for example. As soon as you land on the Basecamp website, you know it’s a project management app that’s used by millions. If I’m working on a post discussing great project management apps, then I know I’m in the right place. All of their websites have equally clear messages about what they do and who they’re for.
5. Showcase Coverage by Bloggers Alongside Other Media Outlets
Bloggers want to be taken seriously. We want the same respect given to more mainstream news outlets (though by now, blogs are about as mainstream as you can get). By featuring blog coverage alongside mainstream media coverage, you’re sending a message to bloggers that you value their opinion just as much as those other outlets.
Publisha is one company that’s doing this right. They list their coverage in order by date, with no differentiation between sources.
6. Ditch the “Marketing-ese”
There’s little that’s more annoying than going to a company’s website to try to find out something about them and being confronted with nearly-decipherable “marketing-ese”. This is similar to the bit above about making sure I can tell what your company does as soon as I get to your homepage, but it goes one deeper. Everything on your site should be easy to understand, both for bloggers you’re hoping to get coverage from and customers you’re trying to sell to.
Eliminating “marketing-ese” doesn’t mean your copy needs to be boring. But make it straight-forward and friendly, rather than always going for the hard-sell. This is another area where 37signals excels. Take a look at their main website, which talks about all their different product offerings. There’s plenty of impressive sales copy there, but it’s easy to understand and easy to relate to. Whether I’m a blogger thinking about covering them or a customer looking for a product like theirs, I’m definitely going to take a closer look at their offerings.
Don’t Underestimate Blog Coverage
Getting positive media coverage can make a huge difference in the success of a business. But all too often, companies focus on getting attention from the big-name media outlets covering their industry rather than the bloggers who might just be more influential than their traditional media counterparts. It’s important to make your PR efforts blogger-friendly.
Case in point: look at the success of The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss. When that was first published, it was promoted almost exclusively through key bloggers. And it went on to be featured in a number of mainstream media outlets (including CNN, Wired, and on NBC) and a New York Times bestseller that’s now on its second edition. Proof that bloggers can mean the difference between success and failure for a product.
About the Author: Cameron Chapman is a freelance designer, blogger, and the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.