• Georgia Hatton

How a Digital PR Campaign Can Strengthen SEO Efforts

Some people lately have been discussing whether PR itself needs a bit of a rebrand. Certainly, since I started out in the industry more than a decade ago, a lot has changed.

Gone are the days when a double page spread in a national paper was the highlight of your day, week, month or year; whilst that’s still undeniably swoon-worthy, now the real star of the show is a follow link on a respected website like the BBC or Guardian.

80-90% of the briefs we receive from clients these days have one eye on search engine optimisation (SEO). “All we want is high quality backlinks!” they say, and so that’s an area that many PR teams not only understand, but excel in. The lines are blurring between PR and other disciplines such as social media, SEO and wider marketing tactics.

So how exactly does a digital PR campaign strength your brand or your client’s SEO efforts?

Links, links and more links

Digital PR stories are perfect for driving links back to your brand or client’s website. Put simply, links act as signals to Google in terms of how “good” your website is and therefore how worthy it is of ranking highly in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

There are different kinds of links and the very best are natural editorial links or those built from outreaching (both of which occur through PR activity).  Links can be ‘do follow’ or ‘no follow’, with the former being the best type to land, because Google sees that as a signal to pay attention to that link when going about its secretive algorithm work and determining how it should affect rankings. ‘No follow’ links, until recently, might as well have been called ‘ignore me’ links, but from 1st March 2020, Google announced that they would become ‘hints’ for indexing and crawling, which basically signals “don’t rule this out completely” for ranking purposes.

Every website has a Domain Authority (DA) assigned by the SEO tool Moz, which predicts how well it will rank in the SERPs. The ranking is a number between 0 (lowest) and 100 (highest). As a general rule, the higher the DA of a website you generate a backlink on, the more valuable that link will be in terms of positively impacting your SEO.

If Google sees lots of follow links from high domain authority websites coming into your site, it’s going to think “well that must be a very good website with lots of valuable content” and, as such, will bump it up the SERPs.

And whist editorial and outreach links are fine, you shouldn’t buy links (ideally at all but especially not en-masse or spammy) as this falls under what is often referred to as ‘black hat’ SEO tactics (read: naughty) and will do more harm than good.

What PR content works?

You may have a really strong PR story that generates lots of media coverage, but very few backlinks and there could be a reason for that which you’ll need to address, including:

  1. You’re targeting media sites that notoriously don’t give out links, especially follow (e.g. Mail Online is a tough link nut to crack)

  2. Your story is strong but doesn’t provide a reason to link (e.g. a video hosted on your brand or client’s website, an interactive tool or infographic, or anything that offers something the journalist will naturally want to link back to.

  3. You haven’t included a URL in your outreach/press release, just a brand name. Honestly it can be as simple as that – you shouldn’t expect a journalist to have to go and Google the correct URL and add it in for you when writing their piece.

In terms of content that works well to encourage back links, you want to be looking at either video, strong imagery, further useful information or an interactive piece of content such as an online tool or widget to be at the heart of your story. Host it on a dedicated page on your brand or client’s website and make sure you’ve told the person you’re outreaching to all of the details they need to know, so that they have the necessary links and information.

Even PR stories without a “hero” piece of content can generate backlinks and we see that plenty. Links can come instead from feature placements, reactive statements/comments to breaking news, survey or data-driven release and other activity. However, as they say, content is most definitely king!

When should I expect results?

You’re not going to shoot to result one, page one of Google overnight, but the more consistently you build high quality, non-spammy links, the more quickly you will see the benefits. It can take months of hard work to generate the level of links you need to make a difference, but it will 100% make a difference.

Not only will links gained from digital PR campaigns help your rankings over time, but they will also have the secondary benefit of delivering traffic to your brand or client’s website. Subsequently, you can expect more eyes on the products and services found there and, ultimately, an uplift in sales or enquiries.

Where can I start?

You might already have strong content on your brand or client’s website that would be perfect for attracting links, but you need to outreach it to make things happen. If you’re taking a DIY approach rather than using an agency, just make sure that you have researched the people you plan to pitch to, as this will maximise your chances of getting the approach right and securing coverage/links.

For wider opportunities for links outside of a “hero” piece of content, you can look at hashtags on Twitter such as #journorequest where journalists often post about needing input for articles they are working on (many of which are online and opportunities for links).

Or, you can enlist the help of an agency partner that specialises in PR for SEO who will have the contacts and ideas needed to start getting those links rolling in for you.

By Shannon Peerless, MD @ 10 Yetis.

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