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How to Write a Press Release (+ Free Template)

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How to Write a Press Release (+ Free Template)

A well-crafted press release can help relationship-building, manage a brand’s image, and improve SEO.

Here’s everything you need to know about press releases, including a step-by-step guide to writing a good one:

Press release template

Do note our template is only a guide. Be sure to consult the style guide your company uses and tweak the template accordingly. Get the template here.

What’s a press release?

A press release is an official statement delivered to members of the media. It’s commonly used to share something newsworthy that a company has done with the aim of securing media coverage.

It’s typically written:

  • In-house by the company’s communications team.
  • By a third-party vendor, such as a hired PR agency.

When is a press release used?

Press releases are versatile and are often used to announce:

  • The launch of a product, service, campaign, event, or business.
  • Major updates to a company, such as its rebranding, restructuring, or new hires (normally at the exec level).
  • Information about a crisis.

This one’s entirely up to you. In general, there are three ways of distributing a press release: manually, through a syndication service, or by way of a mailing list.

Let’s take a closer look at how it is distributed:

Manually

We’re all for manually distributing your press release. While it may be time-consuming, sending a personalized email (along with the press release) can increase your chances of getting media coverage.

Our CMO, Tim Soulo, can vouch for this, having manually sent out over 100 personalized outreach emails as part of a link outreach experiment.

At the risk of sounding stalkerish, it’s also possible to find anyone’s email address today.

Try tailoring your email with these suggestions. You can:

  • Use an eye-catching email subject line. Editors and journalists receive scores of press releases daily. So make yours stand out with selling points, such as “Interview opportunity with Apple CEO Tim Cook.”
  • Address your recipient by name.
  • Briefly tell them why you’re writing.
  • Tie your message to their publication or business. (Why would this piece of news suit their publication?)
  • Where relevant, suggest one to two story angles for their consideration. Include available interviewees’ names and designations.

For the last point, use your discretion to decide if it’s worth pitching story angles in your introductory email.

This really depends on the nature of the news in your press release.

For instance, the launch of a SaaS platform in Southeast Asia may capture the interest of multiple tech publications. To increase your chances of securing coverage, consider preparing one to two story pitches to go along with your email and press release. 

Via a syndication service

Syndication services act on your behalf to distribute press releases and have an extensive network of media contacts.

PR Newswire is one widely used option. It can be used to schedule or disseminate news to thousands of news agencies, media publishers, editors, and journalists instantly.

Via your media contacts list

A press release can also be broadcast via a mailing list, maintained by either a company’s communications team or a hired third-party agency.

In these media contacts lists, you’ll often find members of the media categorized by the publications they write for and the beats they specialize in—such as tech, food and drinks, personal finance, entertainment, and so on.

This ensures only relevant press releases are sent their way. It’s a worthy distribution option if you’re short on time and have amassed a considerable network of contacts.

What to avoid in a press release

Writing a press release is relatively easy once you get the hang of it. But it can also go very wrong, so take heed of the following:

Not having a clear point of focus

We can’t emphasize this enough: A press release should have just one newsworthy idea, whether you’re talking about a product, campaign, service, or event.

The rest of your press release should then complement this piece of information.

If you’re unsure, go back to the drawing board and ask yourself: “Would I be interested in reading this and covering it as a news story?”

Being too wordy

Keep your press release around 400 words.

If it runs far longer than that, do a reread to cut out the fluff. Do you really need a whole paragraph detailing your company’s mission and why it ties in with the product’s launch? Is there jargon that may not be easily understood by the layman reader?

Expressing opinions or sounding too promotional

The subtle sell can be tricky to achieve, but you’ll be in good stead once you find this balance.

To do this, avoid using promotional words and statements—such as “world’s best,” “best in class,” “groundbreaking,” and “one of a kind,” to name several.

Unless you can back these up or are a leading business in your industry, such phrases could work against you by reducing your credibility.

Using too many quotes

We recommend using no more than two quality quotes. What defines a quality quote, then? This brings us to the next point.

Boring, clunky, or manufactured quotes

Choosing quotes is tricky business. As The Guardian puts it, your quotes should offer insight, not information.

In essence, they should complement the facts—rather than reiterate what’s been said in the rest of the press release.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a poorly written quote:

  • A boring quote is one that adds no value to the press release, either by stating the obvious or repeating what’s been said in the rest of the release.
  • A clunky quote may use run-on sentences, take too long to get to the point, or use sweeping statements.
  • Manufactured quotes fall in the same camp as sounding too promotional.

Here’s one that checks all the boxes on this front:

Clunky Apple quote

Groundbreaking, incredible, magical—followed by a loaded, information-heavy quote that should have been paraphrased.

Thankfully, Apple gets away with it because the tech major’s success speaks for itself. In any other press release, though, you’d likely cast doubt over the bold claims made.

How to craft a press release in 14 steps

Now that we’ve laid out the foundational must-knows, use this step-by-step guide to craft a good press release.

1. Understand the AP Style guidelines

The Associated Press (AP) is one of the world’s largest news agencies, and its stylebook is used as a reference point by journalists globally. It ensures consistency in your press release content.

However, AP doesn’t provide guidelines for formatting press releases. So we’ve put together some general conventions you can use:

Use a common font

Stick to one commonly used font in your press release, such as Times New Roman or Arial.

Style your font

You can vary how your font is stylized throughout the press release—such as bolding your headings and subheadings or italicizing text for image captions. We recommend using the following:

  • Header: 14 pt
  • Subheader: 12 pt
  • Body: 12 pt
  • Image captions: 10 pt

Write in third person

Write in the third person—as in he, she, they, etc. This applies to both brand mentions and quotes.

  • Brand mentions
    Apple mentions itself in the third person in all of its press releases, including this one. So instead of saying, “We have launched the third generation of AirPods,” the company phrases itself like so:

Quote where Apple mentions itself

  • In quotes
    Another thing to note is, ideally, any featured persons should be quoted in the past tense—so said, shared, noted, etc.

Quote by Tim Cook

2. Choose your format

The structure of a press release doesn’t deviate all that much, as you’ll see from our downloadable template.

But there are different ways of hosting a press release, and you’ll want to decide on this before getting to the actual writing. Here are three common ways of doing so:

In pdf format

The pdf is typically attached to your introductory email—which we covered under distribution methods above—as well as hosted on the company’s website (usually under a “Press” or “Newsroom” section).

Newsroom section on Apple's webpage

In interactive format

An interactive press release—or multimedia press release—is one that’s hosted on a company’s site as an article. You’re able to copy and share its elements (e.g., text, images) easily or click on links to visit related pages.

Here’s an example of a multimedia press release featuring Apple’s new AirPods. In addition to hyperlinked text, there are downloadable images located throughout.

Image of girl running with AirPods. Download button at bottom-left corner

You’ll also find these buttons located at the bottom of the press release:

Buttons to share article, copy text, and download images

In email

If you’re opting to manually distribute your press release, another commonly used alternative is to simply paste your formatted press release in the body copy of your email.

This is especially effective for shorter press releases and eliminates the additional step of scrolling to the bottom to retrieve the pdf.

However, editors and journalists generally prefer being able to copy text and download images easily. So do consider hosting your “in email” press release on your website too. (It’ll also help you track your backlinks and mentions more easily.)

3. Pick a newsworthy angle

To identify a newsworthy angle, start by thinking about the main idea you want to sell. Could it be the launch of an ecommerce campaign or an announcement of your company’s restructuring exercise?

What’s special about it, and why should readers care?

This angle should be summarized in one sentence for inclusion in your opening paragraph.

4. Add your release date

Now let’s get to the writing. Start by indicating whether the information contained in the press release can be published immediately or embargoed until a certain date.

It should look like this (delete accordingly):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or 
EMBARGOED UNTIL [DATE AND TIME + TIMEZONE] 

5. Leave filler text for your headline and summary

We’ll get back to this shortly.

For now, leave several line breaks between your release date and opening paragraph so that you can fill in your headline and summary later.

6. Write a strong opening paragraph

The most important information should be at the very beginning of your release. To identify what those key facts are, use the inverted pyramid:

Inverted pyramid with 3 levels: "need to know" at top and "nice to know" at bottom

Think of this in terms of how news articles are structured.

The headline features the most important, eye-catching information of your press release, and the opening paragraph of the release should answer the five Ws and one H (who, what, when, where, why, how). 

  • Who: The name of the company releasing the information.
  • What: The piece of information you’re disseminating. What’s the press release about?
  • When: The date of this event, whether a campaign launch or new hire.
  • Where: Where can your readers find out more? You can choose to include a location or links to more information here.
  • Why: Why this information matters, and why it’s a story worth being told.
  • How: How the information adds value to the company, its users, or the industry.

7. Body paragraphs

Here, you should elaborate on your introductory paragraphs with supporting details.

Let’s return to our earlier example of this Apple press release.

It opens by announcing the launch of its updated AirPods. The succeeding paragraphs then discuss the product’s design, audio features, and battery life—each under its own bolded subheading.

Excerpt of Apple press release about AirPods' new design

8. Add relevant quotes

Your press release is taking shape! Review your write-up and beef it up with no more than two quality quotes—and from no more than two people.

These quotes should only come from reputable figures in the company or industry, such as C‑level executives or industry representatives.

The first quote is normally added immediately after your opening paragraph; if absolutely necessary, another one may be added further down in the press release.

Pro tip

Generally, formal titles of people quoted should be:

  • Capitalized if you plan to mention the title before the name. 
    • According to Ahrefs Chief Marketing Officer Tim Soulo, “Quote lorem ipsum.”
  • Lowercased if you plan to mention the title after the name. 
    • Quote lorem ipsum,” said Tim Soulo, Ahrefs’ chief marketing officer.

9. Add images

Adding images (along with image descriptions and/or captions) is optional. But research has shown that a press release with images is seven times more likely to be read than skimmed.

If you’re launching a product, including hi-res images in your body copy makes for easier reading and paints a stronger visual of what you have to offer.

Remember to include a link to downloadable assets (try using a URL shortener tool like bit.ly) at the bottom of your press release.

10. Craft a compelling headline and summary

Now it’s time to return to your headline and summary.

While it mostly makes sense to write your press release in chronological order, we reckon these two elements should be written only after you’re done with the main copy. 

Given you would have toiled at the press release to identify the most important information, you would now be able to comfortably craft a headline that’s clean, factual, and fresh.

Below your headline, add a one-sentence summary of what the entire press release is about.

Headline and one-sentence summary

Be mindful that your summary isn’t quite the same as your opening paragraph. It doesn’t have to check off the five Ws and one H but should incite enough curiosity to keep someone reading.

You can write your headline with just the first letter of the sentence capitalized, just like in the above screenshot.

We recommend using title case, which means the first letter of most words is capitalized. Try using this auto-capitalization tool to help you get the headlines looking on point.

Buttons for different style guides. Click each one to show text field for adding/formatting headline

11. Boilerplate

Your boilerplate comes after the main content of the press release but goes before the contact information. It furnishes readers with some information on the company behind the press release.

This should be a one-paragraph summary of the company’s backstory (where applicable), as well as an overview of its products or services. You can also briefly mention any notable achievements.

Here’s what it may look like:

Apple's boilerplate

12. Close your press release

Below your boilerplate, indicate that your press release has ended with the “###” notation.

13. Press contact details

In a new section, add in the necessary contact details so that journalists and editors can reach out easily.

It’s normally written in this format:

Name (bolded)
Name of company or PR agency
Email address
(Country code) contact number

14. Review your copy

At the final stage, review your press release by revisiting the above steps.

In particular, check for the following:

  • Is it objectively written?
  • Is it newsworthy and succinct?
  • Does it contain the key details? 
    • Quotes, images, details on event or launch (time, date, and location), etc.
  • Are there typos or stylization errors? 
    • This happens more often than you’d expect, especially when it comes to people’s names.
    • You should also check for stylization errors. For instance, it’s “AirPods” and not “Air pods.”

Finally, get a second opinion from someone more experienced—this is a crucial step in identifying anything you may have missed.

Once everything’s in order, your press release is ready for distribution.

Tracking the performance of your press release

A natural next step is looking into your press release analytics.

They help you determine your campaign performance, whether the resources spent were justifiable, and if you reached the right audience through the right platforms. It’s also a good way to better understand the overall sentiment toward your press release, which can inform future press releases.

Most distribution services offer basic visibility reports that allow you to review commonly tracked metrics, such as click-through rates, conversion rates, backlinks, and downloads (if you released the press release in pdf form).

The trouble is such services can be expensive, so a free tool like Ahrefs Webmaster Tools can help to offset unnecessary costs while allowing you to easily track backlinks and mentions.

How to track backlinks

First, follow this pictorial guide to set up your first project on Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

Then, in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, enter the URL of the page on which your press release is hosted. From here, you’ll be able to see the number of backlinks received.

Site Explorer overview of Apple's press release

For a detailed breakdown, head to the panel on the left and go to Backlink profile > Backlinks. Here, you can look at “live” backlinks, as well as recent and historical ones.

Backlinks report for press release

You can also hover over the tooltip (marked with a tiny “i”) on each metric to get a better idea of what you’re looking at.

If you’re in a hurry or aren’t sure if it’s worth signing up for a free account, try using our free backlink checker tool instead. The tool provides an overview of the top 100 backlinks for your page.

Backlinks overview showing UR, DR, and overview of top 100 backlinks

How to track mentions

If you’re interested in monitoring the mentions of certain keywords, quotes, or your brand’s latest products, you can set these up in Ahrefs Alerts. These mentions will be sent to your email inbox at a frequency of your choosing.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

While it may seem similar to Google Alerts, Ahrefs Alerts offers a more comprehensive view of insights, according to our mini study of both monitoring tools.

Final thoughts

So there you have it—your detailed guide to what a press release is, what to avoid, and how to craft one.

It’s also a good idea to revisit the basics on occasion, just so you don’t lose sight of the foundations of press release writing.

Got something to say? Ping me on Twitter with your thoughts and suggestions.




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SEO

15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic

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15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic

You only need three tools to get sixteen highly actionable data points on your competitors’ traffic.

Before we dive in, let’s set the right expectations: no tool will give you your competitor’s exact traffic data. However, it’s still well enough to see what works for them, copy their best ideas, or set realistic benchmarks.

We’ll cover:

  • Types of data you can access, such as traffic volume, trends, organic and paid keywords, and audience insights.
  • Practical use cases, including benchmarking, tracking progress, identifying content gaps, boosting your SEO and SEM, and negotiating budgets.
  • Last but not least, how this data is gathered and its reliability.

With these tools and insights, you’ll be well-equipped to understand and outperform your competitors’ website traffic.

We’ll start with organic search traffic — the source on which you’ll get the most data.

How to analyze competitor organic search traffic

Organic search traffic refers to the clicks a site gets from search engines, excluding search ads.

There’s a lot you can tell about your competitors’ organic traffic and a lot you can tell from it. Here are my favorite twelve use cases with detailed instructions.

You can check that in seconds for free, right now:

The tool will also show you where in the world the traffic is coming from, some of the top pages and keywords, and traffic value (i.e., the value of the organic search traffic, if it were to be acquired via PPC in Google Ads).

Organic competitors are the sites that compete with you for the same organic keywords in search engines.

Typically, you’ll have more organic competitors than your regular direct business competitors. For example, a 3D printer manufacturer may be competing for a fair share of keywords with a 3D printing magazine — completely different businesses, same keywords.

So by rounding up your top organic competitors, you gain a bigger pool of keyword ideas you can potentially target. Much bigger than if you’d just take into account your direct competitors.

Here’s how to identify all organic competitors.

  1. Open Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and enter your domain.
  2. Go to the Organic competitors report.
Organic competitors report. Organic competitors report.

From there, you can look at the common keywords to see where they outrank you or click on Competitor’s keywords to see keywords you don’t rank for but they do (a.k.a. your content gap).

Top competing domains report showing keyword intersect. Top competing domains report showing keyword intersect.

If your competitor is doing SEO, typically their blog will attract most of their organic traffic. But this is not always the case. They may have found other ways of getting clicks from Google, like free tools or free resources, and you could do the same.

  1. Open Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Go to the Site structure report.
Site structure report. Site structure report.

For example, someone analyzing our site could see that our free writing tools get more organic traffic than years of writing on the blog.

Free writing tools get more organic traffic than years of writing on the blog. Free writing tools get more organic traffic than years of writing on the blog.

To see your competitor’s top performing pages:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Go to the Top pages report.
Top pages report.Top pages report.

The first use case here is targeting the same keywords as their top pages to channel some of that traffic your way.

Top keyword column in Top pages report. Top keyword column in Top pages report.

There’s more. You can use the report to see which pages contributed to an uptrend or downtrend in your competitor’s traffic.

Analyzing changes in traffic with the Top pages report. Analyzing changes in traffic with the Top pages report.

Or, focus on top-performing pages and use the Compare pages view to see when those pages started to pick up traffic.

Comparing pages in Top pages report.Comparing pages in Top pages report.

Now to see what the competitors did to improve the pages, click on the caret next to the page and click Inspect.

Accessing the Inspect tool contextually.  Accessing the Inspect tool contextually.

Then choose the date on the calendar and view changes made to the text in that time.

Calendar tool in Ahrefs. Calendar tool in Ahrefs.

If you’re already doing SEO or considering it, seeing a list of your competitors’ keywords is almost like they’ve shared their keyword research with you.

You can use keyword data to find:

  • Top-performing keywords and “steal” some of their traffic with your own content.
  • Top-performing keywords in specific countries.
  • Keywords with specific terms to find content ideas around certain topics or phrases.
  • Low-difficulty keywords (typically, faster to rank).

To see your competitors’ keywords:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Go to the Organic keywords report.
  3. Use the filters to find what you need. For instance, use the KD filter to find low-competition keywords.
Organic keywords report in Ahrefs. Organic keywords report in Ahrefs.

For example, you can track the ranking history of your competitor’s top traffic-generating keywords. If you see sudden spikes, it likely means they’ve updated the content to increase ranking. By using the calendar feature mentioned above, you can learn how they did it.

SERP history. SERP history.

One of the best ways to find organic traffic you’re potentially missing out on is to do a content gap analysis. In SEO, it means identifying the keywords that your competitors rank for but you don’t. Some of those keywords can make perfect topics for you to cover.

In Ahefs, you can do a content gap analysis automatically:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Competitive Analysis tool.
  2. Enter your domain in the Target section.
  3. Enter your competitors’ domains in the Competitors section.
  4. Hit “Compare”.
  5. Click the Content Gap report.
Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool.
Ahrefs' Competitive Analysis tool.

Toggle Main positions to exclude your competitors’ rankings in SERP features like “Top stories” and “Image packs.”

Toggling the "Main positions only" feature.
Toggling the "Main positions only" feature.

Now look through the report and identify keywords that are relevant for your site. The volume column will show you which keywords are likely to send the most traffic.

More than 60,000 potential keyword opportunities via Ahrefs' Content Gap report.
More than 60,000 potential keyword opportunities via Ahrefs' Content Gap report.

Short-term organic traffic performance can inform you of the latest developments in your competitors’ rankings (say, within the last 24 hours to a couple of weeks).

For example, you can observe the impact of the latest Google Update on their site, see how much traffic they gained or lost last month, or check if any of their newly launched pages are already picking up traffic.

To see short-term organic traffic performance:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. In the Overview report, choose a timeframe in the Changes mode.
Choosing a short-term data timeframe in Overview report. Choosing a short-term data timeframe in Overview report.

This will adjust the top-level metrics and traffic by location panel and show you the changes over the specified period.

1717077370 466 15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic1717077370 466 15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic

You can go as deep as day-to-day traffic changes — a very helpful thing if you want to see Google’s update impact on your competitors’ traffic.

Traffic performance graph showing exact day of a Google update. Traffic performance graph showing exact day of a Google update.

Date comparison is available in multiple tools and reports across Ahrefs.

As for long-term traffic performance, this allows to set a traffic goal to match or overtake your competitor’s traffic, and plan your budget based on competitor’s performance. You can also use it to forecast your competitors’ traffic.

To see long-term traffic performance:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Turn on the Years mode in the traffic graph.
  3. Adjust the time frame and export the data if needed.
Choosing a long-term data timeframe in Overview report. Choosing a long-term data timeframe in Overview report.

Seeing multiple sites on one graph is useful if you want to identify the leader in your niche, compare your site to a few competitors simultaneously, and determine if you are catching up to the leader or if someone is catching up to you.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your domain.
  2. Add competitors using the Competitors tab.
Zoho Desk's traffic (green) is catching up to Intercom (blue).
Zoho Desk's traffic (green) is catching up to Intercom (blue).

Organic share of voice (SOV) is an SEO metric that shows how much traffic goes to your pages compared to competitors’.

In other words, if you want to see your overall organic search traffic share in the market, and eventually increase it, this is the metric you’d want to use.

SOV is based on tracked keywords, so you first need to add them to the tool. These can be keywords you target on your blog, your product pages, or even all of your important keywords together.

  • Go to Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.
  • Start a New project.
  • Select keywords to track. You can use the filters to refine the list suggested by the tool and add some keywords later on. Make sure to choose only important locations for your site.
Adding keywords to track in Ahrefs Rank Tracker. Adding keywords to track in Ahrefs Rank Tracker.
  • Add competitors. You can add specific sites or choose from the ones suggested by the tool. Notice the keyword intersect — the higher the number, the “closer” the competitor.
Adding competitors to analyze in Rank Tracker. Adding competitors to analyze in Rank Tracker.

Once you finish the set-up, you will be able to see and regularly track SOV in the Competitors Overview section in Rank Tracker.

Share of voice metric in Rank Tracker. Share of voice metric in Rank Tracker.

One of the ways your competitors could be getting traffic is from links from other sites (a.k.a. referral traffic).

Knowing who links to your competitors allows you to pursue the same or similar links which can help you not only get more referral traffic but also boost your SEO and increase your brand awareness.

To find pages with a high probability of sending traffic to your competitors, look for backlinks from pages with significant organic traffic. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Open Backlinks report. Pages with the most traffic will be displayed on top by default.
Backlinks report in Ahrefs. Backlinks report in Ahrefs.

From there you can use the Referring page title filter to see only reviews or rankings where you could be listed, too. Simply add in words like “vs, review, tool, tools, top” as a way to identify these pages.

Using the referring page title filter to see only reviews or rankings where you could be listed, too.Using the referring page title filter to see only reviews or rankings where you could be listed, too.

Here’s an example of such a page:

1717077372 49 15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic1717077372 49 15 Unique Ways to Check Competitor Website Traffic

Another way to analyze your competitors’ traffic is to treat them as one entity. This allows you to:

  • Benchmark your site traffic trend to your competitors as a market segment.
  • Identify broader industry trends and seasonal patterns in traffic.
  • Assess the collective impact of major events, such as changes in search engine algorithms or economic shifts.
  • Monitor the overall health and growth rate of your industry.

For this, use the Portfolios feature in Ahrefs. The image below shows aggregated data for four sites, including organic traffic and paid traffic (from Google Search Ads).

Example portfolio of sites. Example portfolio of sites.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Dashboard and click Create > Portfolio.
How to create a new portfolio.  How to create a new portfolio.
  • Fill in the URLs you want to track. Note the URL mode selector. Use “Domain” to track the entire domain with subdomains, “Path” for folders, and “Exact URL” for single pages.
Filling details of a site portfolio. Filling details of a site portfolio.

How to analyze competitor paid search traffic

Paid search traffic refers to the clicks a site gets from search ads on search engine result pages. Here’s how to check your competitors’s paid search traffic and how to use that knowledge to your advantage.

If you’re running search ads, checking out your competitors’ paid keywords can give you ready-made keyword research. This lets you see which keywords are working for them and helps you fine-tune your own ad strategy to target those high-performing keywords.

What’s more, you can reveal paid search data Google Keyword Planner hides by default: search volume for a particular keyword instead of a search volume range for a group of keywords.

And even if you’re not investing in ads, this info can still be super useful. It usually means these keywords are important to your competitors because they know these keywords bring in customers. Chances are, these keywords could be important for your business, too.

To find your competitors’ paid keywords:

  1. Go to Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s domain.
  2. Open Paid keywords report.
Paid keywords report in Intercom. Paid keywords report in Intercom.

From here, you can use filters to find keywords that meet your CPC, traffic, or relevance criteria, and sort the data to see the keywords which bring the most traffic.

Filters in paid keywords report. Filters in paid keywords report.

Notice the Paid/organic traffic share bar. If you see both blue and yellow color, that means your competitor has invested in the keyword twice (through content and ads) and is trying to get as much SERP real estate as possible — consider pursuing these keywords as well.

Paid traffic/organic traffic share. Paid traffic/organic traffic share.

Another way to gauge a keyword’s importance is to look at its ad position history. A long and consistent history suggests it’s likely a valuable ‘money’ keyword, while a short history might indicate your competitor is just experimenting with it.

Ad history report. Ad history report.

Want to check out their ad copy and landing pages? Head to the Ads report. You can set the location where your competitor runs their ads and see the landing pages and keywords associated with each ad.

Ads report in Ahrefs. Ads report in Ahrefs.

Interested to see how much your competitors spend to get all of that paid traffic?

  1. Go to Site Explorer.
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain.
  3. Open Paid pages report.
  4. Set the preferred location to see the budget per country (leave it set to all locations to see the total ad spend).
  5. Set the Performance report to Paid traffic cost set and adjust the timeframe.
Paid pages report in Ahrefs. Paid pages report in Ahrefs.

Use this data to set a benchmark for traffic performance relative to ad spend and to negotiate the budget for your campaigns.

How to analyze other traffic sources

If you’re interested in the overall competitor traffic performance, here’s where to look.

To get a quick answer to how much traffic your competitors get overall (from all traffic sources), you can get that information for free with Similarweb.

Once you set up a free account, simply go to Website analysis > Website performance report.

Website performance report in Similarweb. Website performance report in Similarweb.

Arguably, the best way to use Similarweb is in comparison mode. This approach ensures that the data is directionally accurate: whether the data is overestimated or underestimated, it is consistently so across all sites. By comparing your traffic with your competitors, you can identify the relative differences that set you apart.

Comparing websites in Similarweb. Comparing websites in Similarweb.

Similarweb is not the only tool with general traffic insights. Another one is Sparktoro, an audience research tool.

What’s great about Sparktoro is that its data and functionality revolve around the users behind the clicks. So you can use Similarweb to understand how popular the site is and then Sparktoro to get to know the people who visit it. Take that data and use it for persona development, fine-tuning your messaging, and looking up influencers to partner with or sites to advertise on.

Simply set up an account at Sparktoro and type your competitor’s domain in the search bar. Make sure the “Visit the website” mode is on.

Overview report in Sparktoro. Overview report in Sparktoro.

From there go to:

  • Social networks: scroll down a bit and see which social network the brand uses the most. This not only tells which social networks likely send the most traffic but also which proved to be the most engaging.
  • Demographics tab: see data like gender, age, geography and interests. What’s unique about this data is that it comes from social media profiles.
  • Social accounts tab: to see what social media accounts site visitors are likely to follow and engage with. This is a great source of potential influencers to work with.
  • YouTube channels, Reddit, and Podcast tabs: see where it’s highly likely to meet your competitors’ (and possibly yours) audience.

Where does the data come from? Is it accurate?

Depending on the tool, the data on your competitors will mostly come from:

This means that, in most cases, the data is estimated instead of actual data taken from your competitors and handed over to you.

So, when it comes to the data’s accuracy, you should expect a blend of estimated accuracy and directional accuracy. Despite best efforts, the data will be approximated and designed to give you an idea of relative performance because there’s no other way.

This also means that if you’re interested in a particular type of traffic, say traffic from search engines, it’s probably best to get a dedicated tool for that. You’ll get access to bigger data sets and more capable functionality, allowing you to do more.

Final thoughts

Want to go deeper into competitor analysis? Check out our other guides to go beyond traffic data:

Got questions or comments? Let me know on X or LinkedIn.



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The Top 10 Content Marketing Skills You Need

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10 Content Marketing Skills You Need to Master

Want to reach more of your target audience, connect with them, and have meaningful interactions?

Quality content marketing may be the ideal solution for you.

But gone are the days of simply writing and releasing content.

Effective content marketing requires various skills and strategies if you want to get it right.

If you’re looking to breathe new life into your brand and generate more interest in your target audience, here are the top 10 skills and strategies you’ll need.

1. Know Your Audience And Target Them Effectively

Ask anyone about content and content marketing, and chances are that audience targeting is one of the first suggestions.

But what does audience targeting actually mean? And why is it an essential content marketing skill?

First, understand who your audience is, what their day is like, their priorities, and what they’re doing or intending to do while they consume content.

Then, use that information to craft content that counts on a platform and in a format that suits your audience.

Take the Shoe Snob Blog as an example.

The content is photo-centric. The page has few distractions, and the storytelling and text are dense and chunked.

The topics range from stories of shoemakers, care tips, and all the insider info a lover of bespoke and top-of-the-line men’s shoes, shoe designer, or shoemaker could want to know about the objects of their obsessions.

These features tell us a lot about the blog’s readers.

Shoe Snob Blog readers are likely visual, busy, and view reading the blog’s content as almost a secret pleasure they indulge in while waiting in line for an expensive coffee.

The blog doesn’t have content on saving money, getting things for less, building shoes more cheaply, or reviews of shoes you’d find in your local department store.

Why? That’s not what the blog’s target audience is interested in. In fact, those topics would likely chase readers away.

For Justin FitzPatrick, the blog’s author, it’s about the luxury, the emotional connection and passion for the brands, and the smaller details most of us wouldn’t likely notice about a man’s dress shoe – in language that matches the audience’s expertise.

You might be tempted to skip audience exploration and targeting to this degree, particularly if you’re a B2B brand or sell something non-visual like insurance.

But this could be a fatal mistake for your content marketing.

Even if you’re selling to another company, that company is driven and shaped by humans you’ll need to get attention from.

2. Understand How Brand Strategy Influences Content

Content and content marketing could do more harm than good if they fail to blend seamlessly with a brand strategy.

So, if you’re looking to build content marketing skills, ensure you understand how brand strategy influences effective content.

Solid brand-driven content strategies consist of six core elements when it comes to content:

  • Brand foundations – What matters to the company, such as the image it wishes to project, etc.
  • Audience discovery and brand position – How the brand fits within the market.
  • Keywords and language – How the company wants people to find its brand, and what language it will use.
  • Authority building – Looking like an expert and a leader on a chosen topic.
  • Content creation – Any content strategy must be manageable, affordable, sustainable, scalable, and effective.
  • Organization – Utilizing an editorial and publishing calendar and post-publishing tracking and measurement to maintain and guide your content strategy.

3. Consider SEO, Search, And Search Engines

SEO and search are essential for getting found, gaining traffic, building authority, and overall growth.

If you want your content marketing to work, you can’t afford to avoid this content marketing skill because you’re not an expert.

  • Users make 1.2 trillion searches on Google per year.
  • 93% of all web traffic comes from a search engine.
  • 46% of searches are made to look for something local.

In January 2023, searches for phrases that included “gifts” increased 45%, while searches that included “presents” increased 15% over 2022. This equated to $47 billion in the two weeks following Christmas.

So, search is growing and becoming more important – not declining.

If you want to take advantage of search traffic, you need to ensure you’re considering several aspects of SEO when developing your content marketing skills, including:

  • Keyword research.
  • AI and how to humanize your content.
  • Link building.
  • Building authority.
  • Topic relevance and expertise.
  • Site structure, website performance, and analytics.

4. Humanize Your Content

Once you get started with content marketing, you’ll realize pretty quickly that AI-generated content is highly problematic.

You need to follow basic SEO formulas to have your content rank, another formula to make it interesting and catchy for readers, and how to maximize the usability of your content.

However, you also need to ensure you stand out from the crowd and surpass your competitors.

To make your content more human-friendly, learn how to:

  • Create content that supports a user journey rather than search engines or sections of a funnel.
  • Utilize customer communications and social channels to understand and connect with your audience. Then, use it to market your content.
  • Make use of internal experts. Not only is looking in-house a way to make excellent content more affordable, but audiences also love to see your brand’s passion for what it does.
  • Take a smart angle, get personal, and have an attitude. Personality and branding are vital, but so is the information you provide. Ensure it is something of value to your readers, and don’t be afraid to tell stories to build emotional connections.
  • Add personal videos to top-performing articles.

One of the best examples of all these tips for humanized content in action is the annual Christmas content campaign from WestJet.

5. Engage By Storytelling And Creative Writing

If you want to capture attention and use content to connect with your audience, you need to be able to tell a good story.

Stories make content emotionally engaging but also make it possible for readers to experience what it would be like if they purchased your product or service.

Want to strengthen your content marketing with storytelling?

  • Create relatable, believable content. To do this, know your audience, understand their experiences, and create content that aligns with this knowledge.
  • Have a clear message. Like an ad, every story or piece of content needs a goal and a clear message you want to convey to your audience.
  • Choose the right type of story. Do you need to make an emotional connection? Compel a reader to act? Convey values, a feature, or a concept? Build community?
  • Select the right platform and medium. If you want to share several statistics, video might not be the best option. Selling vacations? YouTube or TikTok might perform better than Reddit or a blog.
  • Know where to start and stop. Your content needs to appear at the right point in the customer journey and push readers to the next step. What should readers do next?
  • Organize and structure. Plan your content ahead of time. Make sure your stories have an arc, make sense, and take readers or views through an experience.

6. Do Your Research

The best content provides an audience with information or a look at something they normally don’t have access to.

To find this information, you must be prepared for deep research – and that means a lot more than just finding a statistic.

Find the original source or study. Ensure the number you’ve found is still relevant and accurate. Consider the source of the statistic and how they arrived at that number. What did the study not consider when finding their statistic?

To build additional authority, you may consider interviewing the source of a statistic or a subject area expert.

7. Improve Your Interviewing Skills

While it helps if you deeply understand the subject matter, it isn’t all lost if you’re new to the topic.

In fact, being a newbie to a topic can have advantages because you can see the topic with a fresh perspective.

One thing you must be knowledgeable about, however, is interviews. Interviewing is an essential content marketing skill.

Here are some tips:

Prepare

Arrive at the interview with an understanding of the topic. Know the pains and challenges individuals interested in the topic face.

Understand your priorities for your readers, the industry, and the individual you’re interviewing.

Have a list of questions that are thoughtful and organized, and work toward answering a single question or reaching a specific goal.

Set Interview Goal

Are you trying to get tips from an expert? A day in the life of? Solve or bring light to a certain issue? Make a human connection?

Choose a goal for your interview, organize it into an outline, and remove any question or information that doesn’t help you move toward that goal.

Be Personable And Make The Interviewee Comfortable

Awkward silences, a lack of rapport, nervousness, and other social aspects can interfere with an otherwise excellent interview and affect the information you collect.

You may want to consider using cognitive interview techniques, which have been adapted from criminal investigation for journalism.

Record Your Conversation

As humans, our brains prioritize stimuli to determine what is important and what we should pay attention to and remember.

This attentional filtering becomes more severe when you’re making notes, thinking about the technical aspects of an interview, and nervous. As a result, it’s easy to miss important details or implications.

So, save some time and improve your accuracy and insights into the information provided during the interview by making a recording that you can refer to as often as necessary.

Be Precise And Ask For Clarification

Some people love raisins in cinnamon buns. Others do not. And just like the raisins debate, how you define a word or concept may vary greatly from someone else.

So, if the information you collect during an interview seems vague, or you’re unsure of something the interviewee says, ask.

The worst thing you can do is assume that it isn’t true or deliberately influence the meaning of someone’s words.

8. Measure And Track Everything

Measuring something is generally easy. The difficult part of measurement and tracking is measuring and tracking the right things.

SEJ’s annual State of SEO Report reveals that SEO professionals often have a mismatch between their goals, the methods and strategies they use to reach them, and the variables they measure.

Content marketers and marketing are no exception.

Let’s say you want to use content marketing to increase conversions. So, you create a video for your hot tub company.

In this instance, tracking and analyzing traffic data to the video would be a mistake. Those numbers are only part of the story.

Instead, track clicks and use traffic data to better understand who clicks through to your content and where viewers go after they consume it.

And this is vital: Don’t stop your analysis at the click.

Every visit from a viewer is only one step in a larger journey – and this journey matters.

Returning to the previous example, your video might have generated fewer clicks and conversions overall.

Dig a little deeper, however, and you might discover that those few conversions were of much higher value than average, and the viewers return to your site more often than your average site viewer.

In this instance, while traffic numbers might make it look like your video failed, analysis of the customer journey reveals that your video was actually a big success, attracting a more qualified, valuable, and engaged audience.

9. Repackage Content With Purpose

You invest a lot of resources in creating amazing content. Don’t simply publish it in one format and waste the rest of its potential.

Before creating content, consider all the different formats and ways you can share it to get attention.

By planning, you can collect images, video footage, sound bites, expert quotes, and everything you’ll need to share and market your content in various ways to maximize your return on investment (ROI).

But refrain from repackaging content with the sole purpose of spreading it everywhere. Carefully plan your content to appear when and where you need to.

As explained in the video above, Search Engine Journal uses the data gathered for its State of SEO Report to create:

  • White paper reports.
  • Podcast.
  • Articles on data not included in the main reports.
  • Infographics.
  • Carousels for social media.
  • Video clips.

Some of these are released before the main report is published to help spread the word and generate interest while sharing interesting insights about the SEO industry.

Then, when the report is released, it is followed by additional content to help generate interest, links, and findings.

Therefore, instead of a week of interest, the reports generate traffic and attention while informing readers for months without significantly increasing the original investment.

10. Stand Out While Blending In

One of the more common pieces of advice is to copy successful content and do what others are doing.

Makes sense, right?

After all, SEO, good writing, and other skills all have best practices you need to follow. Your audience also has preferences, expectations, and requirements.

Your content needs to look like everyone else’s to some degree.

But here’s the problem with this advice: No one stands out if everyone does things the same way.

Therefore, learning how to blend in while standing out is an essential skill for content marketing.

So, instead of mimicking or copying successful content, collect several examples that have worked on a specific platform or for a specific audience and investigate to find out why they’re effective.

Then, you can use these insights to create and test your own content that allows you to stand out, be unique, and fulfill the needs of your target audience.

Conclusion

Effective marketing is more than choosing the right topic or quality writing.

By strengthening and utilizing these 10 content marketing skills, your content will help you generate the right traffic and connect with your audience in a way that will have you dominating the competition.

More resources:


Featured Image: Viktoria Kurpas/Shutterstock

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine, Yep.com, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.

SiteAuthority

As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site:http://ahrefs.com E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.

Sandbox

I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.

Clicks

Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.

Authors

We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.



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