Project Poldark: A Digital PR experiment for Link Building
A unique and engaging Link Building Digital PR campaign can do wonders for growing your brand’s awareness and authority.
Links generated from authoritative sources work not only to grow your site’s traffic but also to boost your page’s authority in the eyes of Google.
We recently ran our own in-house Link Building campaign to see if, by creating unique and engaging content, we could generate new authoritative links to our site from outside sources.
Using BBC drama, Poldark, as the starting point for our Digital PR outreach campaign, we set out to produce content that would both appeal to Poldark fans and be picked up by our target publications.
Read on to see how we constructed our Link Building campaign and the results we achieved.
What is Link Building with Digital PR? And, Why is it Important?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s have a quick review of what we mean by Link Building with Digital PR and why it’s important for SEO.
A Digital PR Link Building campaign is a process which consists of producing a linkable asset which will assist in increasing links to the website we want to optimise.
Linkable assets could be content-based; such as an article, study or video, or they could be a piece of news or a new product launch. This content could already exist on a website or it could be created from scratch.
What’s important, is finding the right linkable asset for a website, one which will attract the most interest, this will vary depending on your sector.
There’s massive scope in creating content for Digital PR, so choosing the right one for your niche can be a project in itself. From the Skyscraper Technique and stealing competitors’ links to creating a brand new piece of content, the possibilities are endless.
Link Building is vital to growing your site’s authority on search engines. Great content, of course, is crucial to a website; it can’t rank without it. But, links to your website are also very important. They act as a vote of confidence from other sites, endorsing and showing search engines that your content is is worth ranking.
So, now you’ve had your refresher course, let us introduce you to Project Poldark…
For our Link Building experiment, we wanted to show how creating unique and engaging content pitched to the right publications can generate authoritative links to a website.
The primary goal of our experiment was to show the benefits a Link Building campaign can have for a business. The secondary goal, if the experiment worked as we predicted it would, was for our campaign to drive traffic to the Hedgehog website.
One of the things we love about working in Digital Marketing is the ability to combine our love of data with our flair for the creative. So, for our Link Building experiment, we decided to put our love of data to good use and create a linkable asset that used data to tell a story.
We decided we wanted to centre our campaign on a topic we knew we would have fun investigating and that would connect with a wide audience.
That’s when Felipe, our resident SEO guru, had the bright idea of collecting data to tell the story of his favourite TV show; Poldark.
But, this wouldn’t be the story of Poldark as audiences knew it. We were going to uncover new information, quantify things Poldark fans never knew they needed quantifying and calculate things they’d have never thought of calculating.
So, Project Poldark was born, a Link Building campaign using Digital PR to boost the number of authoritative links pointing back to a page on our own Hedgehog website.
We established three goals for Project Poldark.
A main goal which would be the overall aim of the project, a secondary goal which would produce long-term benefits and a tertiary goal which would support the promotion of our content.
Researching Marketing Outreach Opportunities
When creating a Link Building Digital PR campaign, it’s essential that you know who it is you want to attract. This could be anyone from new customers to a previously untapped market, potential funders to prospective employees.
To know where to target your Link Building content to attract these audiences, you need to know where they’re already hanging out online, the type of content they’re consuming and how they consume it.
So, before we could begin to create our own Poldark linkable asset, we needed to know what was already out there.
By understanding what content was already being published relating to Poldark, we could determine which outlets were most receptive to Poldark content and therefore would be likely to utilise our Poldark content and provide links to our final asset.
We began by searching for Poldark related articles and analysing their content, recording which websites and editors had published the content, so we could begin to build our preliminary outreach list.
Next, we documented the publications that showed an interest in Poldark and what else their respective audiences were interested in to get a further understanding of who our content would need to speak to.
Then we identified stand-out trends within our lengthy research, core groups of people who, based on their previous consumption and engagement habits, would respond well to our Poldark content.
Knowing our audience
We created composite personas for these key audience groups based on their average age, gender, marital status, media consumption habits and likes and dislikes.
Constructing detailed personas for your target audience, based on your in-depth research, can help you to get a clearer picture of who you’ll be targeting your linkable asset towards. A thorough understanding of your audience is vital to ensuring your linkable asset has the desired effect of driving traffic to your site.
From our research, we identified the dominant audience group engaging with content published in three key areas; the national press, the local press and content shared in dedicated online fan groups.
Audience #1 → TV & Entertainment sections of the mainstream press and news sites
From our research, we found that this audience consisted of 25-44-year-old men and women, interested in current affairs and celebrities. They were partial to actors’ stories and review-style pieces.
Audience #2 → Dedicated Poldark Fan Sites
We found self-declared fan groups online. Analysis of these fan groups revealed that the majority of these fans were married women aged 35-44 who were also interested in Cornish tourism. There was an interesting discovery in the 65+ age bracket within these groups, where we noted that male members outnumbered the women.
Audience #3 → Cornish Media and Press
The core Cornish audience consisted of a majority of married people aged 44-54. Detailed research revealed that many owned holiday homes and loved what Poldark has done for Cornwall.
Once we had defined our core target audiences for the three media outputs, it was time to get creative; Thinking about how we could create content that these groups would respond to.
With a Link Building campaign, no topic is off the table, no matter how broad or seemingly irrelevant to your business. The point is to get relevant audiences engaging with your brand. How you do that is completely up to you.
An 18th century period drama hasn’t got much to do with digital marketing, but there was relevance with our Cornwall office, plus the Cornish press loves a good Poldark story.
With an office based in Cornwall, we could hardly resist the chance to delve further into a show that was set in our county.
Combine shots of stunning coastlines, wild moors and rugged cliffs with a ton of 18th-century drama, some steamy romance and a few shocking deaths and you had all the ingredients for an instant hit programme.
Much of the content we had found relating to Poldark during our research was based on opinion and analysis of Poldark’s plot lines.
We knew the media would be writing about the new season in anticipation but we wanted to provide fans with something they’d never seen before. New facts. New insights. A new approach.
Defining the Data
We started by making a list of all the things within the show we could quantify that fans and our target audiences would be interested in reading.
We started with the easy stuff; the romance. Anyone who has ever watched Poldark has been drawn into the passionate embraces and will-they-won’t-they plotlines, it’s a core part of Poldark’s appeal.
So, we were going to count all the kisses, the scandalous affairs and gratuitous shots of Ross’ topless chest.
From our research into previous Poldark content, we knew that another huge aspect of the show’s appeal to audiences is its historical setting.
There’s something alluring and romantic about a period drama for modern audiences, but there’s also a load of classic cliches, that period dramas often succumb to.
Poldark is no different. So, we set out to document the show’s period cliches.
These included generic things like ‘intense staring scenes’ as well as Poldark specific occurrences, such as ‘cliff galloping with purpose’, ‘Demelza saying Judas!’ and our absolute favourite; ‘George channelling Dr Evil’.
In an attempt to make our audiences think beyond the drama, we planned to record all travel information; calculating how far our beloved Poldark characters would travel on horseback or by stagecoach.
Poldark’s appeal reaches far wider than the Tamar border, but audiences outside of Cornwall might not realise just how far the show’s characters were travelling each time the set off on horseback.
To put it into context for them, we planned to tot up the number of trips to London, Padstow, Truro, Falmouth even France and calculate the total miles travelled on the show.
Probably the most fun to research was the booze; it was evident from the off that Poldark’s characters liked a drop or two.
But, just how much had these characters drunk throughout the past four series? We figured our audiences might be amused to find out.
We were going to record all visits to the Red Lion and count all the pints of ale, tumblers of liquor, glasses of wine and measures of port consumed.
And lastly, we made a list of the violent scenes. Poldark has had its fair share of shocking deaths and we’d noticed these had been hot topics of conversation during our audience research.
It was the 18th Century, we knew mortality rates would be high; so we took advantage. We were going to record all the punches thrown, fights, duels, deaths, and shots fired.
But we didn’t stop at the data provided by the show. We also wanted to know how the internet reacted to Poldark.
So, we researched the most popular actor and the most loved character. We wanted to know how the world saw Poldark. Then, we looked at character search trends since 2015 and dissected each characters’ most popular episode. We also studied search trends for Cornwall and ‘Poldark Beaches’ in the last 5 years.
On top of all this, we also wanted to compare each season by its run time and the number of viewers.
It’s safe to say we ended up with a never-ending list of data to record. But, we were all pumped and ready to begin our binge of Poldark.
Digital PR Outreach Lists
Creating your linkable asset is all well and good, but if you don’t send it to the right people who will publish it in the right places, it will never get seen by the audiences you want.
And if you don’t get that boost in traffic and authoritative link, then what was the point?
So, once we knew what data we planned to collect for Project Poldark, we began to think about which outlets would be interested in publishing it.
From our initial audience research, we had compiled a rough list of publications and editors who had previously written about Poldark.
We went back to this research, now focusing solely on the publications journalists and editors producing the content, rather than the audiences consuming it.
This was the low hanging fruit for us. We knew these journalists were interested in our topic, so it was more likely for them to be receptive to our content.
Then we created a wishlist, this included publications like Cheatsheet and Buzzfeed. We made a note of each editor’s individual writing style, tone of voice and the type of content they created. We’d eventually use this information to formulate a personalised outreach email, appealing to their individual writing style and previous work.
This was our main priority. Even one win from the wishlist would be a big success for us.
Using the outreach tool Buzzstream, we collected contact details for other editors related to our chosen publications and topic. The tool was particularly useful for mainstream and news publications such as Tatler and The Guardian. We found email addresses, Twitter accounts and phone numbers.
For the Cornish press, we used tools like hunter.io, news website and old-school directories to get their contact details.
To reach fan sites, we decided to enlist social media. The biggest fan account, Poldarked, has a huge following; 31K followers on Twitter and 45K on Facebook. We studied these groups in detail and gained an insight into what type of content we could create for the most hardcore of fans.
Using all this research, we now had three contact lists compiled; one for each key audience. The next phase would be to send a pre-outreach email to make initial contact with our target outlets.
Once you’ve defined your audience, your target publications and outlined the type of content you’re going to produce, you need to actually produce it.
Whatever format your linkable asset is going to take, whether it’s an article, a data set, a piece of video or a social media campaign, it needs to be engaging, unique and well presented.
For us, this is where it got tricky.
Watching the show with such intensity, we paid attention to every little detail in each scene to gather our data.
But, as we were watching, we realised that some of our initial data points didn’t occur in each series and we found some key trends that we hadn’t initially anticipated.
So, we readjusted our key points of data collection to accommodate this realisation; it was a small stumbling block that we easily overcame.
After we compiled all this data, we created basic visuals to help get us thinking about how we could utilise this information to find some unique insights.
The data we collected on the romantic exploits of the characters of Poldark spoke for themselves. They were easy to interpret but, they weren’t that exciting. We needed to find a way to make the data engaging for our audiences.
The travel data was the same. It was just statistics; we needed to turn these figures into a story.
We turned to our main star, Google to hunt for search trends related to the show.
From the volume of Google user searches for particular characters and series run time, to search requests for specific locations and beaches featured in the show; we recorded it all.
Throughout all this intense research, we discovered that a number of dedicated Poldark location tours had sprung up across Cornwall since the show first aired.
On-screen, Poldark brings Cornwall’s history to life; showcasing the county’s mining heritage, rural village life and fierce Cornish pride.
It was no surprise to us that fans of the show might be drawn to Cornwall to see it’s beauty for themselves, though admittedly we’re a bit biased.
So, we made a note of the searches for locations featured in Poldark, to see if the volume of searches for these locations increased after being featured on the show.
Information like this told the story not just of Poldark, but also of its wider impact on Cornwall.
Once we had all our data collected, formatted into simple graphics and thoroughly analysed, it was time for the fun bit. Making our data look interesting, engaging and unique.
Keeping our key audiences in mind, our designer began by visually interpreting the data. These initial illustrations helped us to compare each season and brought our data to life.
These initial visuals would set the tone for our final linkable asset.
The research was complete, our audience understanding was crystal clear and the data was interesting, no question.
But, it wasn’t engaging.
We needed an extra layer to make things more interesting. A simple list of facts and data wasn’t going to hook people in; we wanted to tell the story of Poldark through our data, so we had to find the story in our results.
Once again, we started brainstorming.
Trying to find the narrative in all of Poldark’s gunshots and Demelza’s knockout punches was a fun, if slightly daunting, task.
But, we found some amazing insights which we paired with search data and trends sourced from our reliable friend, Google.
Then our designer began to turn our data into a visual story.
We created a landing page full of our unique finds. The goal was to have something that looked a little like a fan art page, but factual.
We organised the data by theme, summaries and series highlights. There was something for everyone, including the superfans who we hoped to surprise with insights that had never been revealed before.
The strong aesthetic had helped us to anchor the project and give it direction.
We produced very stylised illustrations to visualise our key data points in a way that was attention-grabbing and engaging for our audiences.
Testing the Waters
Rather than blindly pitching your finished linkable asset to your various targets, you need to be sure they’re going to give you the response you’re after.
This is achieved by reaching out to your target outlets before you send them the final asset, testing the waters and hooking them in. If they have questions, queries or concerns, it might tell you that perhaps your content needs further refinement.
Feedback from editors and publications at this stage of outreach can influence the direction you take with your linkable asset.
So, with Project Poldark, we began operation warm-up.
The goal was to establish contact with our key targets. Teasing them with our idea before we pitched the linkable asset in its final form.
This tactic worked on two fronts, it drummed up interest and excitement in our campaign whilst also giving us an indication of how the project would be received. Was it right for our target audiences? Would we have to manipulate the data further to get the optimum interest?
Operation warm-up consisted of a series of preliminary emails like the one below. Still tailored to each editor and outlet, but not giving the game away fully; we were testing the waters here.
The feedback we got from our initial outreach was great, many of the publications we targeted were planning to publish Poldark related content ahead of the series five premier and so were intrigued by our data.
We’d established content and began to build a relationship with valuable contacts within the press.
Once we had completed our final linkable asset, the dynamic Poldark by Numbers page, it was finally time to prepare Project Poldark for execution.
We contacted our three separate press lists and provided a concise summary of what we had created and why. We also attached a summary of our page, to give a visual clue as to what they would be in for.
We made sure that each email was tailored to our specific audience and that the sample data we included was also highly relevant.
We timed our outreach emails perfectly. Too early and no editor would care about Poldark, too late and they’d have already planned their articles. There was a small window within which to establish contact, which we hit.
We used the outreach tool, Buzzstream, to help us to organise our three outreach lists.
But, Buzzstream wasn’t only useful in finding the contact details of the editors, influencers and contributors we needed.
When you send over 100 emails to a large variety of high profile publications, it’s important to track each reply and ensure you don’t contact the same person twice; Buzzstream helped us achieve this.
Reaching out to editors alone wasn’t enough. The second phase of our outreach strategy was to engage Poldark’s fans, publications and any TV enthusiasts through the power of social media.
The Poldark buzz only started a few days before the new season premiered. Those days were crucial for us and, luckily, we hit our targets at the right time. Using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and trending hashtags we managed to deliver our content straight to the fans.
With social media in hand, we turned toward Reddit and Tumblr. The Poldark fan communities are huge on these platforms and our content was very well received.
In just one week we had promoted our content to editors, writers, social media platforms, forums and on our own website.
We lived and breathed Poldark and monitored every impression, like and website visit our content drew.
All our hard work paid off!
A number of regional and national publications picked up our content. These all created links back to our site; which was, after all, the main goal of the project.
An example was being featured on Cheatsheet.com. Their article ‘Poldark by Numbers: An amusing flashback of Seasons 1 to 4’, directed a lot of traffic back to our site.
- The Big Issue Cover Story – “Poldark’s Plan for a better Britain: Scythe Matters”
- Cheatsheet.com – “ ‘Poldark’ by the Numbers: An Amusing Flashback of Seasons 1 to 4”
- Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub – “ Poldark by Numbers “
- Cornwall Live – “ 7 things you still never knew about Cornwall”
- Pirate FM – “37 topless scenes in Poldark… and counting!”
- Forever Young Adult – “Three reasons you should already be watching Poldark”
The most successful social media platform for our content was Twitter. Our most popular post got over 2000 Impressions, 600 engagements and 107 link clicks.
Our most interesting win was when our Twitter post attracted the attention of the official fansite, Poldarked. Engagement from them attracted even more exposure to our posts, which resulted in a boost in traffic to our website.
A surprise came our way when we were treated to a retweet by the Poldark producer himself, Michael Ray; this gave us another boost in engagement.
Impact on The Hedgehog Website
The traffic to our site from the day we launched our Poldark page, compared with the previous period was off the charts.
The traffic driven by referrals also increased, thanks to our social media activity and press mentions.
But, we wanted to know which publications brought the most traffic. Analysing which publications and platforms drove the most traffic is vital information that we can utilise next time we create an outreach campaign.
Concluding the experiment
Overall, the Link Building campaign was a great success. We gained some strong links to our website from authoritative sources. And we secured brand mentions in regional and national publications and came away with an invaluable list of press contacts.
We based our campaign on what we know best, data, interpreting it in a fun and captivating way to please our target audiences. Our unique approach to Poldark made us stand out to our chosen target publications and websites, which made them more likely to utilise our content.
This tactic can be applied to any niche and any business sector.
Remember, the places you target with your linkable assets need to be kept close to your brand; after all, you want the people drawn to your site to have an interest in what you do. But, while the publications you target need to have some sort of connection with your niche, this shouldn’t limit the topic of your content.
The subject of linkable assets can be as broad as you want them to be. Poldark has nothing to do with the work we do, but by capitalising on the hype around the series, we were able to get our name out there.
As long as you don’t lose your focus and always have in mind the goal of creating valuable, authoritative links to your site, there’s no end to the topics you could focus on with your Link Building Digital PR outreach strategy.