Emily Baker | October 31, 2022
When trying to land impactful media coverage for a client, search engine optimization (SEO) strategy isn’t usually the main thing on a public relations pro’s mind. Yet, if there’s a way our pitch efforts can meet multiple needs for a client, isn’t that worth exploring?
To me, that’s a definite yes.
So, what is this magical intersection of SEO and PR?
Two words – PR backlinks.
Essentially, a backlink is when a website other than your own site hyperlinks directly to your website. The higher quality and quantity of backlinks you have, the better chance your website will rank highly in search engines – hence why they’re important for SEO strategy (though keep in mind, backlinks aren’t the only factor affecting how you rank!).
Basically, backlinks help prove your website’s worth to search engines. Every backlink is like a vote – the more “votes” your site receives, the more likely a search engine will deem your site a place of authority and value, making it somewhere Google or Bing will prioritize for their own users.
Here’s where PR comes in – press links are the “holy grail” of backlinks. While not the only type of backlink that’s valuable, a press link (link to a client’s website in an article by a member of the media), is of huge value because news outlets have a high domain authority. When a website has a high domain authority, it means it’s likely to rank high in search, so not only is someone more likely to find the article mentioning your client’s website, but your client’s website also gets SEO “points” for having a backlink on a high-quality, highly ranked site.
Press websites also are a great source of expertise, authority and trust. News outlets are third-party sites unaffiliated with your organization that are go-to sources of objective, unbiased information. People are more likely to believe it when a news outlet says your client is a source of authority, than if you try to say it yourself. Really, it’s the same reason PR folks try to get media coverage for their clients. It’s essentially a third-party endorsement.
Finally, incorporating backlinks into PR strategy is the greatest return on time and resources. If you’re already reaching out to journalists, incorporating backlinks into your pitches and press releases doesn’t take much more time on the front end, but the reward will be double fold if your pitch lands and the placement includes a link. It would be a waste of resources for SEO strategists to spend time reaching out to journalists if you’re already doing it.
First, agencies and client teams must define KPIs together. SEO strategists are usually working toward the number of links earned, while PR teams usually are working toward generating impressions. The best thing to do is to connect agency partners with the internal SEO team and talk about how you can support each other. It probably doesn’t make sense to set a specific goal for the number of backlinks a PR team generates – after all, backlinks are not our main priority – but it does make sense to talk about specific links that are a priority for the SEO team and how the PR side can leverage them.
For example, if there are certain pieces of content on your site that you really want to drive traffic to, the PR team can think about pitch ideas using that content and include a link to the piece in the outreach. Or, even better, PR and SEO teams can set aside time each quarter to collaborate on content. Talk about ideas you have for upcoming pitches, and see if there are ways they can align with content that’s planned for the website. Even delving into keywords you might use in your pitch is also important for site rank.
The next step is to leverage – but always protect – reporter relationships. If you have a longstanding, trusted relationship with a reporter, you can ask them to include a link to your client’s website in a story that features them. If your relationship is solid, they may accommodate the request (or at least, they won’t be too annoyed by it!). However, if you don’t have a strong relationship with a reporter, don’t ask for a backlink. You don’t want to ruin the chance of another placement by asking for something on top of what they’ve already given you – great free coverage for your client.
The good news is generating backlinks can be done very naturally. Hyperlinks included in a press release or pitch note may be used in an outlet that runs the story. Or, if you’re offering an expert for an interview, include a link to their bio page on the client’s website. There’s always a chance a reporter may link back to the bio to share with the reader their source’s authority on the topic.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that generating backlinks shouldn’t overshadow a PR pro’s main job – generating media coverage for our clients in high-quality, target media outlets. If we get an amazing placement in The New York Times, it’s still amazing, even without a backlink.
Backlinks should be something we strive to include where we can, but it should never be at the risk of damaging relationships with journalists or taking away our focus from securing high-quality placements just to get tons of backlinks on low-quality sites. Backlink strategy should be a supplement to our efforts – not supersede it.
Done the right way, SEO and PR can be the dream team – scoring wins for our clients that do double duty.
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Emily Baker is an associate vice president at Falls & Co. From crafting a clever headline to advising a client on their next big product launch, Emily’s creativity, strategic mindset and commitment to exceptional client service drive her ability to develop and execute highly successful communications programs for clients in a wide range of industries.