How Traditional PR Can Boost Your SEO
Dust off those people skills: Good PR can give you a huge advantage for improving your website's SEO.
It's easy to overlook traditional public relations when considering how to improve your website's search engine rankings. For years, marketers could use low-brow tactics such as link spamming and keyword stuffing for easy (and sizeable) bumps. Recently, though, Google refined its algorithm to reward websites that offer intuitive and valuable user experiences. It's impossible to game the system like 10 years ago.
But in cracking down on superficial signals, Google elevated the importance of earning inbound links from trustworthy movers and shakers.
Inbound links from authoritative, credible, high-volume websites can take your SEO to new heights. These links bring attention to amazing content and attract shoppers to online store fronts. Google considers these high-quality links as endorsements of your website's content and credibility. And there's no better way to win these links than with old-fashioned public relation skills. Read on to learn how your PR strategy can improve your website's SEO.
Not Being Spammy Isn't Good Enough
In the Wild West era of SEO, marketers used all kinds of dirty tricks to gain inbound links. They'd buy links from high-traffic websites, spam forums and blogs with automated comments, and create fake online profiles. They'd also turn to link farms — companies that build scores of thin, low-quality websites for the sole purpose of linking to other sites.
Fortunately, those days are long gone. Try any of those tactics, and Google's advanced algorithm will blow your website's SERP rankings to smithereens.
That said, building links that don't cause alarm bells at Google isn't enough to boost your website's SEO. Google's algorithm is tuned to reward inbound links from trustworthy, authoritative websites. These links must also be from websites that are relevant to your industry, and those websites must have credible, relevant link networks of their own.
Your SEO won't get much help — if any at all — from inbound links posted to your friends' personal blogs and websites. Even an inbound link from someone who blogs about your industry probably won't move the needle. It's not enough for inbound links to be compliant. They must also be impressive! Think about websites that people look to for information. We're talking regional and national newspapers, popular consumer websites and highly reputable trade magazines. Earn inbound links from those sources, and Google's algorithm will notice.
Of course, the next logical question is "how do I get inbound links from such high-profile sources?" How can you get one of your better remodeling projects featured in Better Homes & Gardens, or how can you entice the New York Times to feature your restaurant in its Food section?
It Starts with Great Content
Having great people skills ultimately doesn't matter if your website isn't worth talking about. And whether your website is deserving of attention depends entirely on the quality of your content.
By now, you might be sick of hearing the old SEO adage that "content is king." It's true, though. Investing in unique, remarkable content is more important now than ever. Over the years, Google used artificial intelligence to analyze countless digital signals generated by how people react to certain types of content. Thanks to this effort, Google's algorithm is incredibly proficient at determining whether content is valuable and engaging. In today's SEO landscape, none of your SEO efforts will gain traction if your content can't grab attention.
High-quality content is also part of your sales pitch when asking for inbound links from your industry's movers and shakers. They should see your amazing content and want to link back to your site! Your outreach won't be taken seriously if your content is dull, useless or irrelevant.
Next, Make a List
Before reaching out to anyone, make a list of all the websites, blogs, newspapers, magazines and other editorial sources where you'd like to earn inbound links.
When finished, thoroughly research each source to find your best points of contact. Don't just seek out the names and email addresses of page or section editors; also pay attention to specific bloggers or journalists who tend to cover subjects that are highly relevant to your business. It's usually the journalist, not their editors, who generate the story ideas that drive editorial calendars. You'll gain powerful advocates by capturing the interests of bloggers, columnists and journalists.
Also, remember, the goal is quality over quantity. Don't try to contact every publication under the sun. Focus on those where you'd mutually benefit from an ongoing content relationship.
Spend a few weeks (or months) following the work of the people on your list. Link to their articles and blog posts on your own website content, and follow them on social media. Share their work and post about why it's interesting. Leave insightful comments and contribute to their conversations.
Establish genuine interest in the folks on your list. A sales pitch is always more appetizing when it's not served cold.
Finally, Establish a Relationship
This is when your public relations skills really get put to the test.
Journalists, bloggers and editors tend to be busy people. They're usually managing several projects and deadlines. Also, they're regularly bombarded with article ideas or contributor requests from other people like you.
Help make their lives easier, and you'll instantly stand out from the crowd. Do this by explaining how your website content is newsworthy. Explain why it's relevant now. And don't shy away from humble bragging about your credentials — after all, you want your contacts to immediately perceive you as an expert in your field.
Or you could take a completely different approach. Rather than offer to share your content, offer to write a guest blog or article on a newsworthy subject. You could also propose a story idea and offer to be quoted. You could even offer to contribute information, statistical data, an infographic or other media in exchange for a contributor credit or byline.
In a nutshell, your pitch should answer three questions:
- What are you offering?
- How will your contact's visitors benefit?
- How does your contact benefit?
Remember to include your contact information with each of your outreach attempts. Follow up after a few days if you haven't received a reply. Don't ask for links right off the bat — wait until you've made contact and have laid the groundwork for an ongoing relationship.
Public relations is about positive, ongoing relationships. It's not about scoring one-time arrangements. Don't let your contacts fall by the wayside after earning those coveted inbound links. Keep in touch as both a contributor and an interested follower, regularly submitting content ideas while actively engaging in your contact's articles, blog posts and social media pages. Maintaining these relationships will only help your website's SEO in the long run.
Want more tips to improve your SEO? Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.
Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.