Useful resources about using SEO PR for link building

A friend in digital marketing recently asked for a resource, or some insight, that would help PR professionals maximise their efforts along the lines of getting the site links and citations alongside their efforts.  Her aim was to point PR people in the right direction to help them do a better job at SEO PR.

 

The remarkable thing is that I seem to remember writing a post like this in 2013, and while there has been some progression, the PR industry is still catching up when it comes to organic search.  Seeing I can’t find that old blog post, and things have moved on in five years, it’s time to update my guidance for PR agencies and PR teams, to help them get the most out of their PR campaigns for search.

 

Here is some rough guidance in no particular order:

What is the value of a link?

Most PR people now know that links are good for search and increasing search visibility.

 

When we look at the analytics from the majority of web sites, it is safe to state that , generally speaking, organic search traffic makes up the majority of all the sessions on a site (and therefore, arguably, the revenue too).

 

Links are the still in 2018 the number one ranking factor for websites. The more links point to a site the more likely Google is to move it up the organic search positions for non-branded keywords.

 

The above sentence is a very simplistic way of looking at things and there are many other factors at play, but generally speaking this statement is true. All other things being equal links will improve organic search positions.

 

Understanding the value of links is important. Not every link is equal. Some might even be seen as bad or toxic.

 

In general, a good PR practitioner should be able to evaluate the authority of a website to figure out if a link is going to be impactful for search engine visibility or not.

 

There are lots of red herrings though, so be careful.  Is the domain authoritative, is the link a nofollow? Is the link nofollow at the link level or at a page level? More on this later.

 

The general beginner’s rule of thumb, though, is that links are, on the whole, a good thing. Not just good, but very lucrative. There are in fact certain parts of the internet that pay for links (we don’t) and links on high domain authority sites can go for £2,000 a link, which kind of proves my point about how much importance online business put on links). Read on to find out more.

Have some accompanying onsite content

PR people can just sell in a story and get links almost as a by-product of their actions, but it helps if you have some onsite content to accompany a story as a citation, giving the journalist, blogger or influencer a reason to link out.

 

Journalists like sources and they like to link to sources, so give them what they need.

 

This content needs to be GOOD and not just a bang average infographic (although these can work…).  I’ll probably do a separate blog post on what type of content works at a later stage.

You don’t ask, you don’t get

Don’t be scared to ask for a link. I always do.

 

Even if a piece is published, don’t be scared to go back and ask for a link to one added

 

If a PR team has spent a lot of time working on a PR story then don’t let poor execution let the campaign down.

Know which sites are more likely to link out and which just won’t

Some sites just don’t link out, so don’t bother targeting them if link acquisition is your objective. Just move on to the next site.

Research your competitors link profile for ideas

Use one of the many SEO tools which are on the market to download your competitor’s link profile and steal ideas from their best link placements.  I’m not going to give away too much here because this strategy is a major USP of my company. Let’s just say that, we actively monitor where our clients’ competitors are getting links and target those places too – if they are not currently on our media list.

Know your Domain Authority from your Trust Flow

In 2018, you need to be using a link profiling tool to benchmark whether the websites you are getting links from are useful or not. Most PR people I speak to now know about Moz. Some, like me, use Majestic, which I think is much better. Here is a post I wrote on Majestic in 2013.

Is the site thematically relevant?

It stands to reason that if your client is, say, a fashion retailer, then links from fashion themed media categories are going to be more useful than links from say, a technology blog.  Make sure you go after thematically relevant link targets first and foremost.  There are tools out there that help you assess thematic relevance. Indeed, Majestic does exactly that.

Know how to spot a nofollow link

Good PR people know how to spot nofollow links. If you don’t get an SEO to teach you about the concept (or Google it). It is very easy to inspect the code on a website to check if a link is nofollow.  If you want to take this to an advanced level then you’ll need to know how to spot if a link has been made nofollow at the robots.txt level. There are also Chrome Extensions out there to help you do this.

Know about the risks and benefits of anchor text

Back in the day, before the Penguin update decimated old school SEO, the anchor text on a link was used to manipulate your rankings. During Google’s notorious Penguin updates, this kind of practice was penalised by the search engine. There is loads of blog posts on Penguin penalties and anchor text manipulation. There is loads of detail and nuance on this subject that I am going to skip, but my advice as a PR would be to stick to natural link text or just branded keywords.

Recognise the problems with affiliate links

Affiliate programmes redirect website traffic to an affiliate and then redirect it back to the target URL site very quickly, often without the user realising. This is so the affiliate can track the clicks and reward their partners for the traffic. The downside is that these links don’t pass link equity is passed onto the affiliate and not your client.  We discount them from our reporting. When I find an affiliate link on our press coverage it is the darkest of days, but it is best to be accurate and leave those links out.

Try and get deep links as well as links to the homepage

If you can, earn deep links into a site. Examples of websites that might benefit from deep links are online retailers, where whole product categories need to rank and can drive considerable revenue. If you can build natural links from press coverage deep into a commercially relevant product category then you are going to help the SEO effort.

Know that reporting on just links is not your end goal when measuring success

I’ve spent a lot of this post writing about links but actually measuring the organic search benefit at the link level is kind of frowned upon my most good SEO people that I know.  Yes,  PR people should report on links but remember that really all that matters is traffic, or rather, conversion from traffic. That is why training in analytics is important. Everyone in a PR team should be trained in analytics. If you are an agency or a PR team that relies on an analyst to give you analytics data then I really think you are being a bit lazy. Instead, fire up analytics and do some learning. It really is easy to get the basics in place and draw conclusions

Never ever buy links

I mean: just don’t do it. Why? You should know why. Google it.

Make friends with an SEO

SEOs might be a hairy, geeky bunch (I joke, sort of) but they mean well and, frankly, they have lots of skills that PR people need to learn. They are very open to knowledge sharing (imaging working in an industry with a secretive entity like Google and you’d see the value in knowledge sharing). Try doing a job or skills swop and see what you can learn.

 

I hope that helps. More can be found here at www.pragencyone.co.uk, or tweet me @jamescrawford. Thanks to Kristine and Rishi for inspiring me to write this post.

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