A PR pro’s guide to link building

Getting your brand or client’s links on the right websites can be as important as landing a big story placement. Here’s how to make it happen.

You’re already an SEO professional and you don’t know it. You go to work every day and build authority and excitement around brands. You build relationships with influential people in your clients’ industries. You leverage opportunities with relationships you already have to benefit the brands you represent.

The only thing missing is the perspective of how SEO fits in.

What is link building?

According to SEO software firm Moz, link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own.

Link building is the hardest part of SEO. Convincing the owners or editors of an influential website to link to a client’s website for the right reasons is a huge victory. These links can have a profound result on how the brand appears on search engine results. It’s a vote of confidence, just like a brand mention in The New York Times.

You come across these opportunities all the time. It’s part of what you are already doing.

Here is a greatly simplified process for achieving a press victory and achieving a good link building campaign, side by side:

Press Victory

Link Building Victory

1) Establish goals

1) Establish goals

2) Define the target audience

2) Define the target audience

3) Find journalists and bloggers for PR based goals and audience

3) Find social media users and bloggers to link building goals and audience

4) Figure out why these outlets would want to talk about your brand

4) Figure out why these people with big followings would want to link to your site

5) Create content, whether a huge event or just a small press release

5) Create content, whether an article, resource, infographic, or funny video

6) Contact and form relationships with the outlets, attempting to achieve placement

6) Contact and form relationships, attempting to achieve a link

7) Victory! Now measure results, revise and do it again

7) Victory! Now measure results, revise and do it again

See how they are almost exactly the same? The applications of many of these steps varies (a little), but the process itself is very similar. If you’re smart, you can accomplish both at the same time.

Five tips to turn PR into link building

What does the PR pro need to consider in order to turn press hits into link building victories?

  1. Ask for links. I find that PR pros are always a little squeamish about asking for links to be included in online articles. Consider this though: If you have something that supports and adds to the content of the article, then it behooves the publisher to link to it. No need to ask for a favor, just have a strategy that makes them want to link.
  2. You don’t need new ideas. Take a fresh look at the angles you’re already pitching. How can you alter them just a little to get that link? If it’s about an event, it can be as simple as linking to further info or a registration page. If it’s a release for a real estate firm, maybe you could link to an infographic on your site about the prices of houses in different areas. Be creative.
  3. Relevance is king. The value of a link is based on how relevant it is to the subject matter and industry focus of a site. A link from this PR blog isn’t as valuable for a real estate firm as it is for a PR or digital marketing firm. Search engines are always getting better at determining relevance, so this should be your first concern.
  4. Don’t forget the smell test. Hopefully you’re only getting your brand placed in trustworthy, authoritative publications, but if there’s ever a question, think twice before building a link from it. Google cares a lot about the quality of the site linking to you. If it seems spammy or otherwise questionable, you’d rather not have the link, as it can incur a penalty from the search engine.
  5. Anchor text matters. “Anchor text” is the term used to describe the text of an inbound link. It’s beneficial to have links that just say your company name (known as “branded links”), but you also want a solid mix of links that include topical keywords as well. If you’re linking to an article about how well public relations and SEO can work together, then say so in the anchor text.

This certainly isn’t all there is to link building, but these tips will definitely get you heading in the right direction. I could write a whole article about each of these points. Maybe I will. Please comment and share your ideas for integrating link building into your PR strategy, and while you’re at it, let me know if you’d like me to dig further into the topic.

Matt Sommer is COO of Brolik, a digital agency based in Philadelphia.

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