There are a whole range of ways that you can build backlinks to your business’s website, from guest posting to tactical link audits and on-site asset creation. However, the amount of time and effort it takes to get each link can become a barrier, particularly when you have limited resources.
Link building is a crucial part of SEO. More than 90% of the global search engine market belongs to Google, who cite links as one of their most important ranking factors.
Alongside content quality and mobile optimisation, backlinks help to determine how well any given page should rank in search results. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that people are always looking for new ways to capture links.
Guest posting requires hours of research and writing per link, while broken link building and citation requests can be time-consuming and leave you with little to show for your efforts. However, in the case of digital PR, one piece of work can produce a flurry of links – making it highly effective when done well.
Why Digital PR?
Often when it comes to marketing a business or a new product, SEO and PR professionals work in silos. Even in startups and smaller teams, where people find themselves doing a little bit of everything, the potential for PR to be used as an SEO tool is often overlooked.
Digital PR can take many formats, but what it boils down to is that your company appears in the inbox of journalists and writers working in your niche, and you hope that they’ll give you some coverage. All too often, the opportunity to get backlinks from that coverage is missed or forgotten.
Where guest post outreach may be a solid foundation for slowly building targeted, high-quality links, digital PR can be more unpredictable.
However, with greater risk comes higher return – and when you consider that one interesting press release could earn you dozens or even hundreds of links, the decision to use PR as a link building tactic becomes a no-brainer.
What gets backlinks?
When you send out a press release with the aim or secondary aim of getting links, it’s important to consider whether a journalist would actually need to link to a page on your site when they write about it. There are a couple of reasons why they might do this, namely:
- They are citing a source of facts and figures
- The link goes to something visual or interactive that they think their audience will find interesting
- They are linking to more in-depth information, from a story which gives the highlights
Some writers and journalists will include links to the companies they cover without question, while others may refuse to link even when it seems patently necessary. However, most fall into a middle ground between the two. To try and ensure the maximum return on your input, attention needs to be paid to good research and an outreach strategy.
Popular Digital PR formats
PR doesn’t just mean writing up a press release and sending it out to every online publisher you can think of. What’s the story?
New research and surveys
Digital PR often works best when it’s data-led. That might be a survey of the general public, or on a smaller budget, a survey of your own customer database. It might be your own analytics data which shows an interesting seasonal trend, or spikes that tie in with search trends and pop culture phenomenon.
You could even pitch predictions, based on historical government and ONS data. These kinds of resources are free to use, so all you need is good research on which topics to start digging into.
Digital PR is often interlinked with content marketing. What assets can your site offer that are worthy of shouting about, or that could offer data of their own? If you’ve built a new tool, for example, you could outreach it using the data it gives you or its users.
If you send a pitch saying someone has created a new online tool, publishers may be unlikely to write a story on it. But when Travelex sent out lifestyle-oriented facts and figures – facts like which places you could travel in for the longest time with only £500 – they ended up with more than 100 new inbound links.
If you’re an authority in your field, or if you want to be, newsjacking can be a simple way of appearing in quotes within trending news pieces.
In order to encourage links from this kind of PR, it’s wise to have a hub somewhere on your site which includes soundbites of expert commentary and where journalists know they can always find up-to-date insight on the latest news.
Planning your Digital PR activity
Whether you’re new to digital PR or a seasoned hand, it’s fair to say that the failure of a campaign you’ve worked hard on is always hard to take.
It may be a simple announcement relating to a new service or product that you thought would excite people, or a survey you undertook with interesting results. Either way, there is little worse than sending out something you think is great only to have it disappear without a trace.
To avoid disaster, research and planning have to be given plenty of time and effort. Throwing ideas around can seem like enough to come up with something great, but if you haven’t done your research, you’ve no way of knowing whether your target audience and target publishers will find that idea as interesting as you do.
When you’re looking for the winning PR idea, research should include:
What are your audience looking at online, what are they engaging with, and where are they doing it?
If you don’t have customer personas, look at Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics for guidance.
Do the sites you’re targeting often share new data, or do they favour interactive content?
Are there any recurring seasonal themes that appear on the sites you’re targeting, or any breakout topics that are appearing across the board?
You should also consider scouting key writers and editors, and following them on social media to keep on top of what they’re posting and what they’re looking for. Hashtags like #journorequest can be surprisingly fruitful in both getting PR ideas, and subsequently securing links and coverage.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with your ideas, either. Wayfair, a company that sells furniture and lighting, once managed to gather more than 100 backlinks at speed by PRing an interactive map on their blog. It showed the filming locations for different parts of Downton Abbey.
What does that have to do with furniture? Absolutely nothing. But at the time, Downton Abbey was all anyone in their target audience was talking about – and publishers were keen to capitalise on that interest by sharing anything new and interesting they could around the theme.
You’ll sometimes hear it said that link-building is part hard work and part good luck. The more hard work you put in, the less good luck you’re going to have to rely on – so be prepared to do in-depth research, and to throw a lot of ideas in the bin before you find the one that sticks. And whatever you do, don’t forget to include your link in the press release.
Lastly, don’t forget to follow-up. Chase a few days after your initial email to see if the journalist or editor needs any further information, and to remind them that your release is sitting in their inbox. If they do publish the story but don’t include a link, ask for one.
It’s important to be polite, and to be thankful that your business has gained coverage at all, but just because the link you embedded within your release hasn’t been included first time around, that doesn’t mean they won’t add it in if you ask.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Tabby Farrar, an Outreach Specialist for Further Digital Marketing, working across the SEO and content marketing teams.
More on promoting your business
ByteStart is packed with help and advice on promoting your small business and reaching more customers. Try these for starters;
- How start-ups can get the most from digital marketing
- Turn your ecommerce website into a deadly selling tool with these 5 steps
- Onsite & Offsite SEO: How to optimise your output
- 10 Top tips for small businesses starting out with social media
- How to use Facebook to grow your small business
- Marketing your small business through YouTube – The 4 essential steps to success
- How to harness the power of Google for your business
- 5 Ways you can use emotion to connect with customers and get more from your marketing
- PR Tips for StartUps