As PR efforts become increasingly digital, media mentions alone aren’t enough.
As more clients and organizations seek to rank high on search engine results, PR pros—along with their marketing counterparts—must work to get both media mentions and links back to their websites.
These links help build credibility with Google and other search engines, especially if they come from earned media hits. It’s very similar to the weight that earned media mentions hold when you seek to boost your organization’s brand.
Chances are, you’re already doing link building—even if you don’t think so.
The role of the PR department is to expand the company’s reach, build up the brand and gain publicity. And most of the time, they do it by pitching stories to the media with the aim to build brand awareness but also, earn referral traffic to the site.
In other words, what PR folks are doing is simply, building links… probably without even knowing it.
But what’s more important, they’re quite good at it at that.
As with pitches, there are effective ways to grab links—and tactics that can sour a relationship with a reporter before it flourishes.
The right way to ask
Sometimes, you’ll successfully land a pitch or find that your organization or client is included in a story. Besides sharing the piece, you should also ask for a link back to your site or blog.
Here’s an example of a PR pro doing just that:
I came across PR Daily’s article about Grammarly’s night owl versus early bird study today. Would you add a link attributing the research to us? Here’s the URL.
… Thanks again for covering the story!
Before asking, ensure that the publication doesn’t have a policy against links, which you can often find by searching for its contributor, pitch or news submission guidelines.
You should also ask for a link in an article’s byline, if you’ve landed one of your stories as a guest post. Don’t include a spam link, however, because that can quickly get you blacklisted as a contributor.
How not to ask for links
Do not ask for links just because you’d like to have them.
Here’s an awful request I’ve received (incriminating details have been removed):
I’m sending you this email as I’ve recently stumbled upon your interesting post: https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/22748.aspx wich is really good one.
Our solution generates email signatures and we have numerous templates and actually, quotes can be included as well. So we were wondering if you could add information about us, and a link back.
PR Daily staff will not go back to add links to articles unless it’s a request similar to Grammarly’s above, where asking for a link is timely and appropriate. I know of no reporters or editors who will add these links—sometimes asked for long after the article has been published—purely because you want publicity.
Also, PR pros: Proofread your emails. Your pitch looks untrustworthy when you’ve misspelled words or the journalist’s name—or when you don’t have a handle on AP style.
Here’s another horrible link request:
I was reading a post on your website today (www.ragan.com/PublicRelations/Articles/Why_proper_language_is_crucial_in_the_executive_su_48780.aspx). On this page, you link to Healthline’s website at [link]. This is somewhat similar to my own website above.
If possible, could you possibly link to [organization] from [Ragan.com’s article] too?
The sentence “this is somewhat similar to my own website above” screams, “I didn’t read the article or anything on your publication’s website, but a search has led me to an opportunity where I can blast out my request to boost my SEO.”
In case that sentence wasn’t a telling sign, the fact that the organization is not a fit for the article—about executive communications—told me that the communicator spent approximately five seconds on this request.
Here’s one more:
I was browsing some related resources online and happened to stumble upon your page at https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/4e87ddef-1fc2-4161-89a6-9be84bf9cda0.aspx. I loved it — the detailed information and guidelines are super helpful, and it’s a really good overview of the topic. I’ve already recommended it to several friends!
We have an article about how to structure an inspiring presentation over at [organization and link to blog post], and I thought it’d be a great resource for your users as well. My hope is it could help your visitors learn even more about giving a rousing speech or presentation; we’ve gotten some great feedback on it so far from our users and would absolutely love to share it with your audience.
Is there any chance you’d be willing to post a link to this article on your site? If so, I’d be greatly appreciative and more than happy to help your users out with any questions they have.
This pitch isn’t as bad as the others, but it still wasn’t saved from being sent to the trash bin.
It starts out by complimenting the article and mentioning that it’s been shared with readers (one way you can build relationships with reporters and editors online). However, the generic language (“detailed information and guidelines”) sends a red flag that this is another form email.
PR pros, tailor your pitches. Your emails don’t have to be long. Include a sentence or two that’s meant for the person you’re pitching—and only that person. That’s how you can grab a reporter’s attention.
The other mistake this pitch commits is that it should have been pitched as a guest article, not a link to be put in an old article.
Think about a reporter’s needs before your own before you hit the “send” button. If you can offer a quote, an article, an exclusive angle or additional data on breaking news or a trend—especially if you’ve done your research and pitched the right reporter at the right publication—you’ll get your story covered as well as a link back to your organization or client.
How do you ask for back links, PR Daily readers?