Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

Posted by KristinTynski

In my
last post
, I explained how using network visualization tools
can help you massively improve your content marketing PR/Outreach
strategy —understanding which news outlets have the largest
syndication networks empowers your outreach team to prioritize
high-syndication publications over lower syndication publications.
The result? The content you are pitching enjoys significantly more
widespread link pickups.

Today, I’m going to take you a little deeper — we’ll be
looking at a few techniques for forming an even better
understanding of the publisher syndication networks in your
particular niche. I’ve broken this technique into two parts:

  • Technique One — Leveraging Buzzsumo influencer data and twitter
    scraping to find the most influential journalists writing about any
  • Technique Two — Leveraging the Gdelt Dataset to reveal deep
    story syndication networks between publishers using in-context

Why do this at all?

If you are interested in generating high-value links at scale,
these techniques provide an undeniable competitive advantage
— they help you to deeply understand how writers and news
publications connect and syndicate to each other.

In our opinion at Fractl,
data-driven content stories that have strong news hooks, finding
writers and publications who would find the content compelling, and
pitching them effectively is the single highest ROI SEO activity
possible. Done correctly, it is entirely possible to generate
dozens, sometimes even hundreds or thousands, of high-authority
links with one or a handful of content campaigns.

Let’s dive in.

Using Buzzsumo to understand journalist influencer networks on any

First, you want to figure out who your topc influencers are your
a topic. A very handy feature of Buzzsumo is its “influencers”
tool. You can locate it on the influences tab, then follow these

  • Select only “Journalists.” This will limit the result to
    only the Twitter accounts of those known to be reporters and
    journalists of major publications. Bloggers and lower authority
    publishers will be excluded.
  • Search using a topical keyword. If it is straightforward, one
    or two searches should be fine. If it is more complex, create a few
    related queries, and collate the twitter accounts that appear in
    all of them. Alternatively, use the Boolean “and/or” in your search
    to narrow your result. It is critical to be sure your search
    results are returning journalists that as closely match your target
    criteria as possible.
  • Ideally, you want at least 100 results. More is generally
    better, so long as you are sure the results represent your target
    criteria well.
  • Once you are happy with your search result, click export to
    grab a CSV.

The next step is to grab all of the people each of these known
journalist influencers follows — the goal is to understand which
of these 100 or so influencers impacts the other 100 the most.
Additionally, we want to find people outside of this group that
many of these 100 follow in common.

To do so, we leveraged Twint, a handy Twitter
scraper available on Github to pull all of the people each of these
journalist influencers follow. Using our scraped data, we built
an edge list, which allowed us to visualize the result in 

Here is an interactive version for you to explore, and here is a
screenshot of what it looks like:

This graph shows us which nodes (influencers) have the most
In-Degree links. In other words: it tells us who, of our media
influencers, is most followed. 

These are the top 10 nodes:

  • @maiasz
  • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington
  • @johannhari101
  • @davidkroll
  • @narcomania
  • @milbank
  • @samquinones7
  • @felicejfreyer
  • @jeannewhalen
  • @ericbolling 

Who is the most influential?

Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we
get a rough understanding of which nodes (influencers) in the
network act as hubs of information transfer. Those with the highest
“Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors”
of the network. These are the top 10 influencers:

  • Maia Szalavitz (@maiasz) Neuroscience Journalist, VICE and
  • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington
  • Johann Hari (@johannhari101) New York Times best-selling
  • David Kroll (@davidkroll) Freelance healthcare writer, Forbes
  • Max Daly (@Narcomania) Global Drugs Editor, VICE
  • Dana Milbank (@milbank)Columnist, Washington Post
  • Sam Quinones (@samquinones7), Author
  • Felice Freyer (@felicejfreyer), Boston Globe Reporter, Mental
    health and Addiction
  • Jeanne Whalen (@jeannewhalen) Business Reporter, Washington
  • Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) New York Times best-selling

@maiasz, @davidkroll, and @johannhari101 are standouts. There’s
considerable overlap between the winners in “In-Degree” and
“Betweenness Centrality” but they are still quite different. 

What else can we learn?

The middle of the visualization holds many of the largest sized
nodes. The nodes in this view are sized by “In-Degree.” The large,
centrally located nodes are disproportionately followed by other
members of the graph and enjoy popularity across the board (from
many of the other influential nodes). These are journalists
commonly followed by everyone else. Sifting through these centrally
located nodes will surface many journalists who behave as
influencers of the group initially pulled from BuzzSumo.

So, if you had a campaign about a niche topic, you could
consider pitching to an influencer surfaced from this data
—according to our the visualization, an article shared in their
network would have the most reach and potential ROI

Using Gdelt to find the most influential websites on a topic with
in-context link analysis

The first example was a great way to find the best journalists
in a niche to pitch to, but top journalists are often the most
pitched to overall. Often times, it can be easier to get a pickup
from less known writers at major publications. For this reason,
understanding which major publishers are most influential, and
enjoy the widest syndication on a specific theme, topic, or beat,
can be majorly helpful.

By using Gdelt’s massive and fully comprehensive database of
digital news stories, along with Google BigQuery and Gephi, it is
possible to dig even deeper to yield important strategic
information that will help you prioritize your content

We pulled all of the articles in Gdelt’s database that are
known to be about a specific theme within a given timeframe. In
this case (as with the previous example) we looked at “behaviour
health.” For each article we found in Gdelt’s database that
matches our criteria, we also grabbed links found only within the
context of the article.

Here is how it is done:

  • Connect to Gdelt on Google BigQuery — you can find a
    tutorial here
  • Pull data from Gdelt. You can use this command: SELECT
    DocumentIdentifier,V2Themes,Extras,SourceCommonName,DATE FROM
    [gdelt-bq:gdeltv2.gkg] where (V2Themes like ‘%Your Theme%’).
  • Select any theme you find,
    — just replace the part between the percentages.
  • To extract the links found in each article and build an edge
    file. This can be done with a relatively simple python script to
    pull out all of the <PAGE_LINKS> from the results of the
    query, clean the links to only show their root domain (not the full
    URL) and put them into an edge file format.

Note: The edge file is made up of Source–>Target pairs. The
Source is the article and the Target are the links found within the
article. The edge list will look like this:

  • Article 1, First link found in the article.
  • Article 1, Second link found in the article.
  • Article 2, First link found in the article.
  • Article 2, Second link found in the article.
  • Article 2, Third link found in the article.

From here, the edge file can be used to build a network
visualization where the nodes publishers and the edges between
them represent the in-context links found from our Gdelt data pull
around whatever topic we desired.

This final visualization is a network representation of the
publishers who have written stories about addiction, and where
those stories link to.

What can we learn from this graph?

This tells us which nodes (Publisher websites) have the most
In-Degree links. In other words: who is the most linked. We can see
that the most linked-to for this topic are:


Which publisher is most influential? 

Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we get
a rough understanding of which nodes (publishers) in the network
act as hubs of information transfer. The nodes with the highest
“Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors” of
the network. Getting pickups from these high-betweenness centrality
nodes gives a much greater likelihood of syndication for that
specific topic/theme. 


What else can we learn?

Similar to the first example, the higher the betweenness
centrality numbers, number of In-degree links, and the more
centrally located in the graph, the more “important” that node
can generally be said to be. Using this as a guide, the most
important pitching targets can be easily identified. 

Understanding some of the edge clusters gives additional
insights into other potential opportunities. Including a few
clusters specific to different regional or state local news, and a
few foreign language publication clusters.

Wrapping up

I’ve outlined two different techniques we use at Fractl to
understand the influence networks around specific topical areas,
both in terms of publications and the writers at those
publications. The visualization techniques described are not
obvious guides, but instead, are tools for combing through large
amounts of data and finding hidden information. Use these
techniques to unearth new opportunities and prioritize as you get
ready to find the best places to pitch the content you’ve worked
so hard to create.

Do you have any similar ideas or tactics to ensure you’re
pitching the best writers and publishers with your content? Comment

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