I wrote a link building article last summer about the reasons why PR is being used more and more within SEO campaigns. The post is even more relevant since further Google updates and content playing an ever increasingly important role in online marketing.
SEO link building strategies are increasingly incorporating PR tactics to build up familiarity and trust when working on client's websites, creating a natural link profile and increasing search engine rankings. In this article we look at the reasons behind this shift in mentality, and what this means to link building in general.
SEO of late seems to be steering itself away from automation and 'quantity' and focussing on marketing and 'quality' which is a good thing for everyone. The bulk of this work lies in the hands of manual link building experts, marketers, copywriters and PR working in unison within agencies and companies to create engaging content that both readers and Google will find interesting.
Will Critchlow from Distilled rounded off the LinkLove 2013 event with a presentation on his vision for the future of building links - he stressed that link building was not dead and that traditional SEOs must stop looking to ‘game’ the system, rather they must adopt a traditional marketing mindset and be far more concerned with getting PR for their clients.
The biggest reason why PR is being used more widely in SEO link building campaigns today is mainly due to the Google Panda and Google Penguin updates. These two updates increased the demand for unique high quality content to be published on high quality sites resulting in many SEO companies changing link building tactics and becoming far more natural 'white hat' and ethical when obtaining links. These Google algorithm changes has meant more natural looking links being used by SEO's such as brand, URL address or 'click here' links instead of the old school keyword anchor text links creating un-natural link profiles resulting in many webmaster tool messages with a slap on the wrist...or worse from Google.
The need from SEO's for high quality content with natural links has opened up the numerous opportunities available via traditional online PR. PR content tends to be of higher quality, well researched and engaging that's suited to publication on high quality websites. Having an article or press release published on a high quality website is much harder to come by and must be earned, they are not simply given away to anyone. By using PR methods, this difficulty is lessened and far more achievable because websites are far more likely to link to or publish content that is compelling and provide information that goes beyond your typical 'top 10' articles you see being published daily on blogs.
There's always been a place for PR within the SEO arena as it's one of the most natural ways to get mentioned (and linked) on a website, especially the better sites. But for those who've worked within SEO will know, the relationship between SEO and PR has often been strained. Many PR companies missed a trick during the past decade by not taking SEO link building seriously and incorporating it into their work. Those who did are in the hot seat now. Many PR's tended to focus on media coverage alone as the main objective without thinking about any links within their content, often containing no links at all. It's still very common to see great articles published on top online magazines and newspapers that mention a company but without an all-important link for SEO benefit to that company.
The relationship between SEO and PR has changed in the last 12 months, mainly from SEO's embracing PR. However it seems more and more PR companies are reaping the rewards of adopting SEO principles into their work and here we look at how SEO and PR can help each other.
SEO and PR synergy - how they can help each other
How SEO can help PR?
In a nutshell, SEO enhances a press release by using popular keywords within the press release giving it the best possible chance of delivering search engine traffic. The editorial links within the press release can generate direct click-throughs and lead to higher rankings for your client.
Those working in PR don't take full advantage of those opportunities from an organic SEO point of view, the keywords used and the links within. By working together, SEOs and PR people are able to maximise exposure to a higher level than either of those entities by themselves.
How PR can help SEO link building?
PR can help SEO by increasing branded traffic by focusing on what’s newsworthy, crafting a great story, finding editorial opportunities, getting coverage on quality sites and building relationships with reporters and editors.
Indirectly, PR helps SEO generate inbound links from quality sources that not only gets first-touch exposure to new audiences, but credibility in the eyes of search engines. SEO's focus on securing links back to clients websites but often forget the importance of nurturing long-term relationships with webmasters and specific media outlets. SEO's can also learn a lot from PR's when it comes to working to very tight deadlines and negotiation skills.
Link Quality vs Link Quantity
Of course, high quality links are more difficult to obtain than normal links, we all know this. You must earn it by creating something of real value and of high quality. "Websites don't link to websites, people link to people" said fellow Cornwall content marketer Lyndon Antcliff which I 100% agree with - give the people who you'd love a mention or link from something that grabs their attention, give them something engaging and success will come.
A key to earning these quality links is building good relationships with webmasters, bloggers and reporters. The PR method does takes longer and involves more resource to end up with the finished article but the rewards in the long term are worth this initial effort. Many agree with the phrase 'quality, not quantity' when it comes to link building such as Hannah Smith from Distilled who talked about this in LinkLove 2013. Hannah stressed that links must be sustainable. Poor-quality links in days gone by are still poor quality links now and that Google is now very vigilant to people using dodgy link building techniques to alter rankings. In the long run it's much better to build a few good-quality links that are genuinely relevant to an audience or community than many links for links’ sake.
It's of course very difficult to quantify this 'quality vs quantity' debate and put actual numbers to it. A link from the BBC on a relevant topic is worth how many links compared to lots of lower quality sites...hundreds? I've yet to see any clear evidence of the true value of a high quality relevant link vs numerous lower quality relevant links. I've certainly seen clear evidence from online marketing campaigns I've worked on that a focus on relevance + quality, not quantity works. However i've never tried obtaining lots of lower quality links...and glad I haven't as i'd now probably be busy with the disavow tool cleaning up clients links!
If you have thousands of low quality links, Google will devalue those that aren't legit so all that effort was for what? Sticking to the quality + relevance rule has always made sense to me and from experience Google likes this too. I like many others such as Jacob Klien personally believe that Google parses link type and link relevancy to determine search engine rank.
The cascade effect
Journalists just like bloggers will often quote/cite, comment or expand upon other’s work. Getting an editorial piece on a prominent website often delivers a cascade of similar stories and links spring up with 'a cascade effect'.
Clients love big site mentions
An SEO's contact with a client is typically someone within a marketing team, a marketing manager for example, reporting to their senior level. Any marketing manager relishes informing their boss that they've been featured on 'so and so' website, especially if it's a household website name. Not only will this be a great link for SEO benefit but the brand exposure on that website will build consumer trust, drive traffic and create extra links.
Talking of the client, Rand Fishkin from Moz at LinkLove 2013 talked about the importance of CEOs of organisations. When the boss speaks, everyone listens - using their character, knowledge and reach to promote their brand and how the face of a company needed to be proactive in making use of the increased profile and authority their outreach has. So look to use those who have power, they will usually have some great contacts within that niche you can use.
One you've nailed one or two...show them off!
If you’ve already been quoted or covered by an authority blog, magazine, newspaper or website then you'll discover that web-masters and reporters are much more inclined to cover something too if they can see any examples of previous high quality work. So once you have nailed the first, you can provide this as an example in future correspondence. You'll be amazed at the response rate.
Contacts are critical in the online world and building relationships with top reporters, bloggers and web-masters is key to being efficient and successful. You should always get to know a website before contacting them - read other articles on their site and get a real sense of what they like, what they don't like and only approach them with what you know they’ll be interested in. Think about other topics relevant to your client that relate to their site.
PR is often the fastest and most cost effective way to generate relevant high quality backlinks via building contacts and relationships within different niches, for example, the travel niche. Having a personal relationship with a key blogger or webmaster massively increases the chances of coverage.
- Start small and work your way up. Once you’ve built a relationship, they’ll start contacting you.
- Read a website or blogs editorial guidelines carefully and adhere to them.
- Read similar editorials that they have published and either write something that leads on from this or think outside the box - a new angle that you think they would be interested in.
- Do not pitch something they clearly don’t want, that is wasting everyone's time.
- Use editorial calendars to your advantage – you can see months in advance what publications are going to be covering so think ahead how you can capitalise on this.