That is the question…and digitally focused PR is the answer

One of our most well-read recent strategy blogs was a piece we wrote on the link between PR and SEO – a relationship not all marketers are aware of. In this new blog, IBA decided to delve a little deeper into the SEO benefits of a well-targeted PR campaign and address the topic of backlinking.

The PR and SEO secret is out of the bag, more marketers are beginning to realize the role PR can play in the digital marketing mix. In recent post on the SemRush blog, digital entrepreneur John Hall cites: “In 2021, brands that are adept at both PR and SEO are going to see their rankings increase significantly…Companies that intentionally integrate SEO with their PR will reap huge rewards.”

Forget spending time chasing newsjacking opps that so many traditional PR agencies are now selling to try and make their service more current by simply reacting to running media stories. You’re just ambulance chasing – and no high flying and respected B2B firm builds its brand ambulance chasing – but more on this in an upcoming blog.

Hall continues that, to hit the sweet spot where thought leadership, SEO and PR overlap “you have to publish consistent source content that offers helpful thought leadership. And that content will need to be written in a way that it is optimized for SEO.”

As explained in our previous blog, backlinks embedded into placed media content help execute this perfect trifecta.

Backlinks paid vs. earned

Most marketers will be familiar with the PESO media model – IBA refresher here if you need it – and how that applies to comms campaigns. The general rule is that earned media carries far more thought leadership quality than paid media and the same can be said when comparing earned vs. paid backlinks.

Google and other search engines have evolved and become wise to “spam” backlinks from black hat SEO techniques. These are cheap links that can be bought in bulk for cents per link. We’ve all seen the emails from mass-mailers claiming they can “feature your domain across 100 sites”.

But the websites these links are housed on usually make no sense at all. Mass backlinking services such as these use link farms or websites that masquerade as news outlets that are never visited by a human, not a human could even fathom the keyword-stuffed content!

Quality links begin with quality content

Consider this from SEO and digital marketing guru Brian Dean on his Backlinko blog when he lists the seven best techniques to generate quality backlinks. Number one, first and foremost – become a source for reporters and bloggers. “If you want to rank on the first page of Google, you need to build backlinks from authority news sites and blogs.” This means white hat links on authoritative source sites.

Sounds easy but this is not a case of waving a credit card and filling the WSJ with a sponsored content. We’re back to the PESO model again, we’re talking about engaging directly with journalists to place earned media content in target publications. By targeting the publications read by your customers and prospects you are firstly building brand awareness through thought leadership, but embed backlinks into that content and you are providing a clear route for your website to be visited by a highly relevant audience. Add a piece of enticing gated content on that landing page – such as a deep dive industry white paper, market report or informative webinar – and you may even begin to start capturing extremely targeted leads.

PR delivers earned backlink results

With earned media placements, not only do you get the instant route to your website, Google considers backlinks on these authoritative domains when ranking your own site in its organic search results. A consistent PR campaign with even a modest budget can generate 3+ bylined placements per month in a particular industry or geography.

Extrapolate this over the course of a year and the SEO benefit to your own website ranking could be huge. Indeed, one of IBA’s enterprise technology clients counted over 250+ web referrals from placed content over the course of a 12-month Pitch&Place campaign.

Next time the paid backlink email comes in, just remember: quality beats quantity – whatever the medium!

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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