No matter how long you’ve worked in PR, the exhilarating feeling you get when that ‘piece of coverage’ goes live never fades. In the world of digital PR, it’s when you see that wonderful backlink staring at you.
Earning a backlink is one of the biggest signals you can give to Google that you’re a VIP. In fact, every time you secure a backlink to your client’s website, you’ve pretty much doubled the value of that online coverage. But why? Why are securing links so important? How do they help your client’s brand or business? And why is it so important that PR campaigns generate backlinks alongside coverage?
However much Google’s job has evolved over the years, its most important one still stands; to interpret and understand what people are searching for – i.e. the search query -, and serve the best possible results to its users. Whether you’re searching for bicycle shops near me or what should I wear to a wedding?, Google tries to find the best content available on the web to answer that question. For Google to decide what the best content is, it has a scoring system:
Have you ever been to a shop where products are all over the place with no sections or signposts? Makes it hard to find anything, right? Google has the same issue when a website isn’t structured well or categorised right. If it can’t navigate through a site with ease, it won’t recommend it to users. First on the scoring board is that your website has a good structure and is categorised well.
Before any public website has visibility on Google, every important page on it needs to be found and filed. Google uses a web crawling software called Googlebot to find and collect information on the web to add to its index. As it crawls billions of web pages every day, Google needs to find a way to prioritise which page it crawls first. This is where the site authority comes in.
How does Google know a website is popular, credible or valuable? One of the biggest signals is when other websites point to it via a backlink!
What are backlinks?
Think about word-of-mouth marketing or Trust Pilot reviews. The more people vouch for a product or brand, the more others are likely to buy. Whatever the topic or theme (e.g. bicycle shops) if thousands of websites link to one particular site, it’s telling Google that the content on it is credible, and of high quality.
Additionally, the more backlinks a site gets, the higher it scores (known as the domain authority), and the higher it scores, the more regularly Google will visit.
Why is this a good thing? The more regularly Google visits a site, (for example, a publication like The Guardian would get daily visits while our very own Lucre blog is more likely to be viewed weekly), the quicker it processes the content to then serve back in the search results. In addition to that, the number of backlinks a website has determines where Google will rank it on the search results page (also known as SERPS). As we all know, the higher you are in Google search results, the more clicks, the more views and ultimately, the more sales.
Backlinks are valuable for PR campaigns as they represent a vote of confidence from the publisher where coverage was secured (e.g. The Guardian) to the brand website. They are a signal to search engines like Google that authoritative and popular news sites are vouching for your content.
In order to earn a quality and relevant link, most SEO marketers will tell you that PR is the way to do this. If the PR professionals are already doing all the hard work by building those relationships and securing coverage, acquiring backlinks only seems a natural value-add to the work.
So how can we secure more links in our digital PR campaigns? What would increase the chance of journalists linking back to a website? A few tips to keep in mind:
Links in press releases:
Seems like a no-brainer but many press releases are still being written and distributed to press without including relevant links. If a brand, service or initiative is being talked about, include a link or links back to the brand in question.
It’s not just about product pages:
Product pages are great for shopping editors and a way to drive initial interest/sales. But what about when the product is sold out? Or the event is over? Category pages are a good additional link to include long term (e.g. black dresses, pet toys). After the initial campaign or launch, they are links that will navigate users to what they’re already showing an interest in.
Give journalists a reason to link back:
Any link included in an article or feature is giving the reader an opportunity to link out and leave the page. If journalists are going to do this, it needs to be for a good reason. This could be anything from additional research or stats, interactive tools, exclusive content, or any other information that would be useful to the reader.
Link building is an incredible skillset most marketing professionals have, but don’t use. As you’re coming up with campaign ideas and brainstorming for the next big media story, just add one question – how could we also secure a link?
If you want to learn more about how backlinks can increase the value of your PR campaigns, get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org