Whilst the fundamentals of SEO have remained the same, it has got a lot harder to rank a site (properly) in search.
As time has gone on, Google has become wise to some of the less ethical tactics now known as ‘black-hat SEO’.
Subsequently, these tactics have now been devalued. This means anyone who is still employing them will either fail to see results or will be susceptible to penalties and manual actions.
It’s no secret in the SEO world that Google doesn’t like us building links whatsoever.
In fact, when Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Muellar was asked “is link building in any way good?”, he responded with the following:
“In general, I’d try to avoid it”
He did go on to say that links are used as part of the algorithm. But instead recommended that you simply create good content and make it easy to share.
This is all well and good, but as a small website getting visibility on your content can be tough.
Even larger sites will still employ link building to bolster their backlink profile and improve rankings.
So, if you’re not really meant to build backlinks, how can you do so in a way that doesn’t draw negative attention from Google?
The marriage between SEO and PR
The goal is to create links in a way that looks as natural as possible. As if someone has chosen to link to you or your content without any input from you.
There are several ways you can do this. One of the most effective is using PR-led SEO.
Every day, journalists are looking for comments from industry experts to include in their posts. Every day, bloggers and influencers are looking for content that provides their audience with value. Podcasters are looking to chat with you about your topic of interest
In return, they will attribute the piece of content to you and maybe even link back to your website.
All you’ve got to do is find these people that are looking for content.
Finding PR opportunities
There are loads of ways to finding PR opportunities – many of them are free, some of them cost money.
Services like Response Source and Gorkana give you access to a wealth of journalist and media opportunities. You can filter queries to find opportunities that are relevant to you.
These can really help to take the time out of finding PR opportunities but they come at a cost. With Response Source this can be anywhere from £25/month to £300+/month depending on the categories you’d like access too.
There are a handful of similar services that are free of charge. Services like HARO and Source Bottle are similar in concept but the database of contacts will be much smaller.
Then you’ve got social media. Twitter is probably the best platform for finding journalist enquiries. You can use the search function and look for hashtags like #journorequest, this will give you a long list of journalists who have requested content for a specific subject or topic.
Architecting your response
Once you’ve found a relevant enquiry, it’s time to create your response.
It’s important to remember that a single journalist will be sending out multiple enquiries every day. This means a few things.
Firstly, they’re very busy. When creating your response, try and avoid giving your full life story as the bio. Instead, opt for something informative and snappy.
I usually introduce myself using my name, my job title, my experience in the given industry and sometimes a quirky fact about myself if I feel it’s suitable for that enquiry. I’ll also include a link to my website URL.
It kind-of goes without saying, that you bio is not a sales pitch. The journalist doesn’t care if your company offers 75 different flavours of green tea, they want good content from a credible source.
It’s also important to consider that competition is high – especially if the journalist has disclosed the source of media outlet.
For example, if a journalist within the fitness industry is requesting content for high-profile sites like Men’s Health or Bodybuilding.com, anyone within the fitness industry would want to be featured.
You therefore need to try and stand-out from the crowd. One way of doing that is by submitting an outside-the-box response.
See, if a journalist is asking for information on a particular topic, for example, the benefits of whey protein, most people are going to be talking about it’s muscle-building benefits.
If however, you can cite a study that shows that it can make hair appear more healthy or make nails grow stronger and quicker (I’m not saying this is the case!) then you immediately have a better chance of being featured than those offering generic responses.
Monitoring your submissions
Services like HARO and Response Source will automatically keep a list of all submissions you’ve made.
Journalists will usually mark your response as accepted/rejected and then email you with the URL once the publication in question is live.
However not all journalists are able to spend time individually responding to every submission, so you’ll often find that your response remains in “pending approval”.
To counter this and makes sure I know when my responses are being used, there are a few things that I like to.
Firstly, I set up a mention alerts for my name or the client’s company name that I’m working for at the time. This ensures that every time I’m (or they are) mentioned I get an alert with a link to the URL.
This can be done using a media monitoring tool like mention.com or using Google Alerts.
I also like to keep a spreadsheet of all enquiries I’ve responded to. I keep a note of the enquiry, the media outlet and the deadline for submissions.
Once the deadline has passed, I keep an eye on the outlet to see if the publication has gone live. I also check if I’ve been featured and if they’ve linked back to my site.
I see a PR-based strategy as one of the many tools in the SEO toolbox. It’s something that I use regularly these days alongside several other link-building methods.
So, try signing up to a few media connection tools like Response Source, Gorkana or HARO and start responding to some relevant enquiries.
Let me know how it goes. If you have any successes, observations or questions let me know in the comments section below – I look forward to hearing from you.