Say what you will about the value of social media in driving brand awareness and website visits, it is search marketing (and SEO in particular) that still receives the most significant share of attention from Web professionals. It remains a struggle, however, to obtain links – those online citations of Web properties that search engines use to determine popularity and relevance when ranking sites and pages on search return lists. You need links – now more than ever – but you also need a strategy to acquire them.
For that, you’ll need to do one thing very well – learn how to network (and work) like public relations professionals.
PR folks, at least the best ones, know what it takes to get a backlink. In a way, they are the original link builders. And for that we can say thanks. Thanks because there are well-documented approaches a Web professional interested in building links can mimic.
Press releases, of course, have a long history on the Web and while their value may have been diminished once everyone figured out that a sub-$100 press release could generate hundreds of links, they still do quite well in driving an initial level of interest and establishing a base of relevant, yet lower-quality citations. With so many scraper sites on the Web, however, and with a clearer understanding of what and how search engines define value in the virtual eyes of users, we can extend our PR to more sophisticated approaches.
The Power of the Byline
Once upon a time, having your client pen a bylined article for publication in a trade magazine would make you a public relations master. The power of a byline provides credibility, authority and awareness and there is still an immense amount of interest by PR agencies to secure these placements – even as the tide has turned nearly fully digital.
As it stands today, there remains no better way to generate some buzz and build links to a Web property than through guest-blogging. While there is most certainly a time-commitment involved, and prioritizing which sites deserve the most attention is imperative, engaging in guest-blogging and old-school byline writing will definitely earn you some backlinks. In some cases, lots of them.
To get started, simply search for available opportunities using queries such as "write for us," "submit post," and "become a contributor" along with the keywords that you would like or need to be associated with. For example, I would use “become a contributor, digital marketing.” You might just be surprised at the number of high-quality sites that are openly recruiting writers. Take a look and prove me wrong if you can.
Networking through Networks
Public relations professionals are master networkers. Not only do they seem to know everyone, they also know what everyone does and more importantly what everyone needs. The Web has improved networking several times over, so if you’re looking to build links to your Web property, start networking with journalists and reporters where and when they need you. How do you do that?
Several free subscription services on the Internet bring together reporters, bloggers and authors looking for answers to specific questions and support on articles/stories that are actively in production. In some cases, those seeking support are under deadline so if you are fast and helpful, getting links through these services is a snap.
Free services/sites such as HARO, Reporter Connection, PitchRate, Flacklist and the paid service ProfNet are the most popular – if not the most effective – ways to earn links to your website. The services typically follow a similar pattern: reporters ask questions about very specific topics; others respond if the questions relate to their area of knowledge or experetise. Then the reporter credits you and your Web property as a source, usually via a backlink. Bingo. We’ve got links!
While there is no guarantee you will receive coverage (such is life in the PR industry) even a few mentions can generate a great response in relation to building links to your Web property. Take the challenge seriously and you will be rewarded many times over with high-value links that can and will influence search ranking position.