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7 Ways to Obtain "Unicorn" News Links to Your Site Using PR

Posted by Allison Freeland on December 5th, 2013 at 10:20 am

PR and SEO are becoming converging marketing practices, so why not reap the benefits of traditional PR activities for your business’ search position? As a journalism school grad and traditional PR turned digital marketer, here are seven ways to obtain juicy links from news organizations to your website taken from my own experience.

1) Don’t Shun Press Releases:

Though many press release distribution services are scoffed at by SEOs for being value-less  because of no-followed links or duplicate content, this is not the case. People are forgetting that the main purpose of newswires is to supply information to news organizations: newspapers, magazines, and radio and television broadcasters. As such, distribution tools such as PR Newswire and Business Wire have huge value to generating news links to your domain. Even if your release gets picked up but stripped of do-follow links, there is a huge chance (if your news is newsworthy enough) that your release will be picked up and reported on by the newsroom staff. Essentially your re-published press release might not generate link juice, but the story written as a product of your newswire distribution will. Just because you don't get a link in your local paper doesn't mean it won't get links if it's syndicated; other newspapers may automatically hyperlink website addresses in stories.

Moreover, driving traffic is one of the primary objectives of website SEO, according to the SEMPO State of Search Report. It can be one of the important objectives of press release SEO as well. Work with your public relations person to optimize the content of the press release for diverse keyword terms: branded and longtail.

2) Newsjack:

Newsjacking, which is a term popularized by David Meerman Scott, is the act of redirecting the momentum from breaking news into your company’s favor in real time. So how do you newsjack for SEO? Rather than posting evergreen content like “how-to’s” or “top-10 lists,” shift your content schedule to report on real-time news and trends related to your given industry.

For example, something as simple as blogging in real-time during an industry conference can have huge value on generating news links. Once you have selected a specific trending topic to “newsjack,” then create a natural tie-in to your business through a blog post, supported by social media.

The goal with newsjacking is to be the first source for a particular event. Citizen and brand journalists drive today’s information discovery for the media -- so find news or events that hasn’t been reported on or is just beginning to trend, be a source by creating content that speaks to it, socialize it, target influencers and journalists in your particular “beat,” and see the news links swarm in. It’s a media industry standard for news organizations to link to the original source of the story, you’ll likely get a link out of the deal.

3) Issue Studies:

Every company hopes to one day have an inbound marketing model where they would never again have to send an outreach email. Well, one way to think about SEO and PR as an inbound activity is to flip flop the media model. One way to do this is to issue a unique research study.

For example at the digital marketing agency I work for, iAcquire, the most successful link building initiative of ours was when we published a study (with SurveyMonkey) on mobile, search, and social behavior. We tipped a few trade journalists about the study, promoted the content on social, and soon we saw a flood of links come in on trade industry publications that we didn’t even contact. This study generated a ton of coverage because it was informational in nature, first of its kind, and not only did it have percentages and statistics, but it had actionable takeaways.

4) Infographics Still Have Value:

Throughout my communications career, some of my best links came from infographics. We tied relevant data with timely content and were able to obtain links on Mashable, Huffington Post, AllTop, and CareerBuilder. During the week of the Super Bowl a few years ago, a time when there is extra media attention given to the advertising world, we produced an infographic on the “Top Super Bowl Ads of All Time.” PR and SEO people at the organization worked together to target high-authority news outlets with personalized pitches and then we saw the links flood in.

They key to infographic promotion is not to only submit the content to infographic directories, but to create a newsworthy infographic that has value to the trends of what journalists are covering. Find a newsworthy angle by asking yourself: “Why should the media and the general public care about this topic?” Then create the assets, and, using a targeted media lists with tools like Bulldog Reporter Media List, start the outreach process.

5) Leverage HARO for SEO:

Heard of Help a Reporter Out (HARO)? HARO is a tool that connects journalists with sources. Three times a day you’ll get an email from HARO with a list of topics or kinds of subject matter experts that news outlets are in need of in subjects ranging from high tech to higher education. Radio, print, and most importantly news organizations with websites look for subject matter experts to interview or poll to augment their stories.

This tool should not only be leveraged by a traditional PR person, but also an SEO person. Work within HARO to find the right reporter queries that your organization (or you) can respond to. Offer yourself as a resource and always ask for attribution. And, just to play it safe, when mentioning your organization, include the ".com" in your company name to make sure there’s no way of not getting properly credited with a link citation.

6) Hijack Your Competitor Coverage:

Google is a bane and a blessing -- let’s be honest. But one way you can use it as a blessing is to monitor and hijack your competitors’ press coverage. Have a list of your top five competitors and names of individuals on their leadership team, and Google the heck out of them to see what coverage they’ve gotten. From there, cherry pick the news outlets that a) are high-authority and b) are older because news outlets won’t interview you or cover you if they just published something related, then reach out to the reporter that covered them.

7) Know What’s Newsworthy and Understand the Hierarchy of the Newsroom:

Controversial, first of its kind, human interest, emotional, timely, and relevant: These are all descriptors of newsworthy content. If any or all of these words describe your story, email a few reporters who cover your beat, pitch your story, get covered, and get a link.

Sure this process sounds like a cakewalk but to get ink and a link, you have to understand the hierarchy of a newsroom. Don’t even think about emailing the Managing Editor, Editor in Chief, or Publisher -- these people are at the leadership level and manage the newsroom. Instead, pitch assignment editors, online editors, and news bloggers. Avoid pitching copy editors, photo editors, or technical directors as they are not the content gatekeepers.

Author Disclaimer: Handle PR outreach with care. It's easy to tarnish your organization's public perception by tactless communication tactics. For example, when companies tweet using trending hashtags about tragedies to promote their products: not a good call. Use discretion and integrity as you embark on your journey to obtain news links. Reporters can hold a grudge if you're in the business to purely link build. You always have to tie your outreach with information that is informative, unique, and has value to the outlet's readers.

More PR / SEO Resources:

·  Search Engine Roundtable, “Google Press Release Links”

·  Search Engine Journal, “Using SEO for Public Relations: Interview with James Crawford

·  Distilled, “Getting Big Links

·  Search Engine Watch, “12 Ways to Optimize Press Release to Avoid Google Penalties”

Image credit: iStock Photo

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