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Nov 07, 2003
How To

How to Increase Responses and Track Results from Your Planted Articles

SUMMARY: At last -- a direct response expert took on the world of PR, ran a variety of tests, and measured results.

Many "experts" spend so much time writing and planting articles and columns in the media that they forget the most important part -- crafting their "about the author" bio at the end to maximize results. Here's how to make that little snippet of text work harder for you.
CHALLENGE

Like most marketing gurus, Corey Rudl is great at
writing. He can toss off a how-to article or opinion column with
ease.

So, although his ecommerce site relies mainly on classic low-cost
Net marketing tactics such as affiliates, email, and strong
direct response copy to gain customers, he also wanted to try out
planting articles and columns in the media.

The question was, how do you make a planted article really work
for you in terms of immediate response?

It's one thing to get your article read, it's another thing to
get the reader to take immediate action and click over to your
Web site to learn more about or purchase from you.

Plus, how can you quantifiably measure results from a planted
article? As a direct response guru, Rudl wasn't about to waste
time and energy on continuing to write and plant articles if the
effort wasn't paying off.

Last but not least, he also wanted to test a variety of elements
in planted articles to learn how to make them work better -
tweaking, measuring and testing just as he would for any other
campaign.

"Testing is one of the most important techniques for Internet
marketing," he says. "Marketers put tons of effort into testing
and tweaking various marketing campaigns, but they don't always
remember to put the same effort into their public relations
efforts."

CAMPAIGN

Although Rudl's team were tasked with placing his
articles in both online and offline publications, he asked them
to use online pubs as the initial testing ground, since results
would be easier to track.

They focused on four tests…


-> Test #1: "About the Author" wording

Rudl and his team came up with a variety of different "About the
Author" paragraphs to see which would be most effective in his
articles. Each was followed by an offer and a call to action.

o Standard paragraph

The standard "About the Author" paragraph for Rudl told who he
was, what he did, and other products he had written:

"Corey Rudl, president of the Internet Marketing Center
(www.marketingtips.com), is the author of "Insider Secrets to
Marketing Your Business on the Internet," the comprehensive "How-
To" guide for e-business success, which reveals strategies for
generating traffic, increasing revenues, and automating your
online businesses."

o Targeted paragraph (for an article about small business
success stories)

"Corey Rudl, renowned Internet Marketing expert, has gained
popularity because what he teaches is not theoretical approaches
to online marketing, but real examples of what works when it
comes to having a successful business on the Internet.
SecretsToTheirSuccess.com is produced by Corey and the Internet
Marketing Center's team of experts. Fresh Case Studies publish
revealing and informative interviews and site reviews each
month."

o Dollar-value paragraph

"Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl is world-renowned for his
opt-in email marketing expertise, having generated over $2.4
million with responsible email promotions in 2002 alone."


-> Test #2: Different offers

Following each "About the Author" paragraph, readers were given
offers followed by an email address, and were invited to respond.
The address changed depending on the publication in which the
story appeared so Rudl could track which story was driving the
communication.

o "Tips and resources"

Rudl's original "About the Author" paragraph included the
following offer:

"For free tips and resources, please contact
pubname@marketingtips.com." (The "pubname" was the name of the
publication the article was planted in.)

o Membership

Knowing that no-cost memberships tended to attract people, Rudl
tested this offer: "Contact pubname@marketingtips.com for
information on activating a FREE membership to
SecretsToTheirsuccess.com private membership site."

o White papers

He tested offering his own ebooks, such as: "For your FREE copy
of Corey's eBook 'Insider's Quick-Start Guide to Email
Promotions' email: pubname@marketingtips.com."

Rudl also tested changing the first word in the offer, from "For"
to "Claim."


-> Test #3. Avenues of response

At first, Rudl's "About the author" paragraphs consistently
offered only email addresses for reader response. Then he had his
team begin testing 800 numbers and different URLs.

He also tested having the URLs be both specific to the
publication (www.secretstotheirsuccess.com/pubname) and general
(www.secretstotheirsuccess.com/info).


-> Test #4. Author photos

Rudl by passion is a racecar driver. In publications that allowed
author photos, Rudl's team tested a more formal, traditionally
posed business shot vs. a photo of Rudl jumping up on his car
after a race.




RESULTS

Within the first six months, Rudl's team placed articles in numerous offline publications including Home
Business Journal, Small Business Canada, Small Business
Opportunity Magazine, and Response Magazine. Online publications
included the DMA, SCORE.org, and Entrepreneur Media.

The placements resulted in an estimated 12,000,000 new exposures
both online and offline.

But it was the test results that were truly astounding. "By
changing the call to action from an email to visiting a Web page,
the response more than doubled," Rudl says.

"Through our PR tracking, I'm now able to attach some real
revenue numbers to our PR efforts," Rudl says. "It's the only way
we can truly measure if the time and exposure are valuable in the
end, and how that affects our bottom line."

Other results:

- The standard "About the Author" paragraph (who he was, what he
did, and other products he had written) with email address
generated fewer than 50 responses.

- "About the Author" paragraphs that were more targeted to the
story did better, but results were still disappointing. Even when
the offer was changed to a no-cost membership, results didn't
change much.

- Dollar values in the "About the Author" paragraphs did bump
responses, and Rudl adapted future tags accordingly, to include
the sentence:

"Corey Rudl is the owner of four highly successful online
businesses that attract more than 1.8 million unique visitors per
month and generate over $6.6 million in sales each year…"

- Changing the call to action from an email address to a Web site
generated more than twice the number of responses. And people
were 27% more inclined to click on a publication-specific address
(i.e.: /Sherpa) than a generic one (i.e.: /info).

(Note: there is no way of knowing, of course, how many people
were entering the URL without the specific extension.)

- When offering white papers, "Click here" followed by a URL was
less effective than hyperlinking directly to the title of the
freebie by about 30%.

- And changing the single word, from "For your copy…" to "Claim
your copy…", the action word "claim" tripled results.

- 800 numbers bombed, with a response rate as low as the original
"About the Author" paragraph.

There are also difficulties inherent in the 800 number strategy:
if several people handle the phone lines, they all have to be
prepared for article-related calls, being aware that people don't
always say, "I read your article in X and want a membership."

- Casual photos tend to bring better responses than stuffy
professional poses, particularly when used in more casual
publications.

Rudl's team acknowledges that the results aren't scientific,
because in PR there are so many variables. For example, if you're
in the same publication several months in a row, familiarization
of the author increases, and so do responses.

Still, "Testing PR can be a very efficient way to track results,
or at least get you thinking about what components can make a
difference," Rudl says.

"You must be able to track what's going on with your campaigns,"
he adds. "Otherwise, what's the point?"

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