Business know they need to employ search engine optimization (SEO) to sell their products online. Most outbound SEO strategies are based on paid online programs such as promotions and advertising, and are designed to drive large volumes of traffic. However, backlinking, a long-used SEO strategy, can be leveraged by public relations practitioners to drive organic search results.
In fact, backlinking is a meaningful subset of SEO practices, explains Tom Carpenter, principal at Bospar.
“Effective backlinking improves organic search ranking through greater trust from search engines and provides faster site indexing, while also helping to ensure that incoming referral traffic is more targeted and qualified,” Carpenter says.
PR: Uniquely situated for effective backlinking
Backlinking is relevant to just about any company. While SEO firms practice backlinking, the majority of their engagements revolve around pursuit of paid sponsorships. They rarely think about earned media and, unlike PR, do not follow seasonal consumer news cycles such as back-to-school or holiday shopping.
As a result, they typically are not in a position to leverage news trends to create backlinking opportunities.
“The benefits of backlinking are an important part of media outreach, and ‘pitching’ links to media in the traditional PR sense is done in the same manner as regular story pitches,” Carpenter explains. “Creating inbound links adds value to PR programs, and the common PR practice of ‘newsjacking’ can be effective in driving targeted traffic.”
Backlink quality is more important than quantity, and backlinks from high-quality, “authoritative” sites help raise the profile of your own website, or that of a client. “Domain Authority,” or DA, ranking can be found on BuzzSumo or MozBar (a Google Chrome extension) and will help determine how newsworthy, authoritative and relevant a site is, providing you with a start in building a database.
Keep in mind that links to a specific page are more valuable for organic SEO than a generic home page link. Specific “juicy” links point to resources that search algorithms used to index and rank content. Juicy backlinks only need to point to a given website resource to help achieve higher search ranking, and placing a juicy link can be considered a valuable PR “hit.”
To begin an effective backlinking program, first ensure that your (or your client’s) website is well suited for backlinking. You’ll want to consider the following:
- Does the company have a blog?
- Is the blog/website indexed?
- Is there sufficient content to offer links?
- Is there a news and/or press releases page?
These resources will provide the meaningful content that is important for link building.
PR-driven link building
For PR-driven link building, there are numerous options. One step that cannot be overlooked is competitor backlink research.
“PR practitioners can build links and enhance SEO by exploring local city rankings, developing a guest blogging strategy, securing links to high DA sites, placing contextual links, providing resources like infographics and developing programs that encourage cross-linking, such as awards,” Carpenter says. “Additionally, ensure that blog and general website content are regularly refreshed.”
Content repurposing is another helpful SEO practice. A backlog of effective blog content can be rewritten and published on outlets like LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, Business to Community and Social Media Today for additional reach. These posts should include links back to your website, as well as back to the original blog post itself, in order to propagate high-value links across the internet. However, be careful not to publish duplicate content, as this can negatively affect your search engine ranking.
The podcast advantage
Podcasts also present big opportunities for link building. Relevant links can be added to the podcast description when there is a guest on the program. These episode descriptions are then syndicated out across the web, and just one podcast can generate approximately 20 different links in several different high-value locations. Some of those locations will also auto-tweet the podcast link, multiplying effective reach with no effort.
Driving PR results
Backlinking, particularly in the earned media space, is an effective tool for bringing a client more business. And because PR practitioners have a deep understanding of the media and how to pitch, as well as expertise in content creation, they are often better suited than SEO firms to facilitate organic search results.
“While the SEO world is dynamic — and literally changes every day — PR people can incorporate backlinking strategies to drive better results with relatively little effort and at a low cost, ultimately delivering better ROI on media relations and PR programs overall,” Carpenter concludes.