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How a PR campaign can help with SEO

17 July 2019 | Pic PR

Years ago, PR was all about the print coverage.

A feature in a national newspaper was gold dust and a front-page mention leading to a double page spread was the absolute Holy Grail.

But since those heady days of smoke wreathed offices, boozy journalist lunches and faxed press releases, media has moved on and PR with it.

Nowadays it’s not uncommon for a client to completely dismiss print coverage, failing to see its value, despite our protestations to the contrary.

The reason for this is Google, and, more specifically, Google’s search rankings. Other search engines exist, of course, but Google is king so for the purposes of this article…we’ll be referring to it throughout.

Search Rankings

We’re no doubt all familiar when Googling an item of interest with a reluctance to go beyond the first page of search results. If you don’t find what you’re looking for within the first few options, the chances of going to the second page are slim…unless you’re really desperate. And if you do find what you’re looking for on the first page, then why would you go to the second?

For businesses (across all sorts of sectors) to be relevant, it’s important they come high up in the search rankings.

Of course, that’s easy to say, but how is it done?

Not easily, in short.

There’s a lot of technicality around it, particularly in how your website is set up and the right use of content. However, a big boost is by securing high value links. This is where PR comes into its own.

High value links

To give you a breakdown as to what we mean, high value links are where a ‘respected’ website includes a hyperlink back to your website within an article.

Respected websites are those with a high Domain Authority (DA). A prime example of which are news websites – BBC News, Guardian, Telegraph, Mail Online to name a few – all of which have a DA in the 90s.

DA is ranked on a scale of 0-100, with the higher the number the better.

To get featured on one of these news websites, you need to give them a reason to write about you. And that’s where PR delivers. Via feature article, PR stunt, press review, comment piece or more, there are lots of ways a decent PR agency can look to promote your offering to the relevant press.

They approach journalists with a suitably beguiling news hook, the publication runs it online, and BOOM you’re featured with a link.

Let’s a have a huge huzzah for PR!

But let’s rein it in a little here.

It’s not as simple as a hyperlink on a high DA website alone, sadly.

Follow links vs no follow links

An article may very well contain a hyperlink within it, and whilst certainly worth a solid slap on the back, you might want to keep the champagne corked until you’ve established whether it’s a ‘follow link’ or a ‘no follow’ link.

That’s because, funnily enough, links are broken down into ‘follow’ or ‘no follow’.

They look identical to the untrained eye, but looking at the HTML code determines which one it is.

For maximum SEO benefit, follow links are key. They allow Google’s all seeing PageRank algorithm to easily link the two websites, acting as a de facto endorsement. PageRank only travels via follow link, so it simply won’t follow a ‘no follow’ link. Pretty simple, does what it says on the tin, etc, etc.

The basic thinking behind a follow link is that if the BBC is linking to your website with one, then your product/service must be good and above board, right?

‘No follow’ links, on the other hand, while still providing some value, aren’t quite as good.

They help generate traffic to your website, but that’s relying on someone reading the article in which your brand is mentioned and then clicking on the link and heading over to take a look at what you do.

This is useful, but relies on the here and now. Although Google will take it into account to some extent (there’s mixed messages about how much, as Google claims it doesn’t, but notice the use of ‘in general’ in its advice here), it’s nowhere near the value of a follow link – the beauty of which is its long-term worth.

A follow link sits there for posterity for PageRank to assess. It doesn’t need to be acted on by a consumer or a potential business lead for it to deliver lasting value.

So why would someone make a link ‘no follow’ then?

Well, it’s not just to infuriate/upset PRs.

To make a link ‘no follow’ is usually an active choice from the website and is generally done for a number of reasons, which this Ahrefs blog explains in detail.

‘No follow’ started out as a tool to stop people spam commenting on an article with something along the lines of “Cool story, bro. Check out www.picpr.com” which has no relevance whatsoever to what’s being discussed, but adds a link to a website for a single-minded algorithm to pick up. ‘No follow’ was Google’s way of blocking this, which then evolved over time.

Now, ‘no follow’ links are generally used as a safety net by websites so as not to been seen as endorsing dodgy websites. The risks of which could see them suffer a penalty from Google, where their own ranking drops thanks to being linked to an untrustworthy website.

A blanket ‘no follow’ approach from authoritative websites helps to remove the issue, without needing to dedicate too much resource to policing it.

Google regularly updates its processes to combat manipulative link building – that’s people doing whatever they can to manipulate a website’s ranking, and sometimes for nefarious ends.

These periodic Google updates can hammer a website’s ranking if they have a suspicious link profile (basically links to and from dodgy/untrustworthy webpages).

It’s worth bearing in mind that Google, above all, wants to deliver accuracy for the end user. So, it wants to reward legitimate endeavours. Do the right things, for the right reasons, and it should all work out.

The carrot of more to come

Despite some publications opting for ‘no follow’ links across the board, PR can still help to get follow links dropped in. A good relationship with a journalist can see you persuade them to add one. Often, this requires the carrot of further newsworthy content.

For a standalone PR piece, there’s usually little incentive for a journalist to go into an article and drop a link in. However, this is where PR campaigns can really come to the fore.

Asking the journalist to include a hyperlink, whilst indicating that you’ll be sending them updated information or further developments ahead of rival publications, can really help to persuade them.

The technical nature of a follow and ‘no follow’ link, isn’t something that’s worth explaining to a journalist, however. With time pressure a standard aspect of a journalist’s day, they’ll have little time for a PR trying to explain the difference to them over the phone. Expect an irate retort for your troubles; especially if you ask them to amend a link that’s already included within an article.

Usually, when uploading an article, the ‘no follow’ HTML code is undertaken as a matter of course and often automated. If a journalist goes in and manually adds a link to an already uploaded article, however, this isn’t necessarily the case. There’s a better chance, then, of the newly included link being a follow one.

Journalists aren’t, broadly speaking, trained in the complexities of HTML code. Sometimes, this can work in your favour (as in they’ll unthinkingly drop a follow link if you ask them nicely enough) while other times it doesn’t (try getting them to turn a ‘no follow’ link into a follow!).

The carrot is key here. Dropping in a follow link usually goes against publication policy so, technically, the journalist is taking a little bit of a risk in doing so. This risk is something they’re far more likely to take if you have a mutually beneficial relationship. Either from longstanding interaction, or the promise of more (useful) things to come.

Online mentions

It’s not just links where PR offers SEO benefit.

Google, and indeed the internet, evolves all the time. Links aren’t as important as they used to be thanks to the prevalence of manipulation, as mentioned.

Google wants a rounded, and accurate, view. So even just your brand name being mentioned on high value sites has algorithmic benefits.

Again, this is where PR delivers.

Getting your brand mentioned within an online news article at a leading publication, even if it doesn’t directly link back to your website, all serves to build your profile in Google’s eyes.

It’s not easy to achieve either. It takes hard work and initiative to secure, with benefits beyond that of simply improving your online presence.

Social media mentions are another online factor to consider though. If people are talking about your brand on social channels and sharing your content, then Google is going to think you’re the real deal.

Good PR campaigns are multifaceted and provide a shareability factor alongside their simple newsworthiness.

PR is all about spotting what’s interesting about your offering and putting it in front of the right audience. Publications aren’t going to link back to your website if you don’t give them reason to. They’re also not going to talk about your brand unless you give them reason to. People aren’t going to share your stuff unless you give them reason to.

PR is what can help to generate the reason behind this chatter.

At Pic PR, we provide a mix of services – PR, video, copy and social. All of which come together to help project your offering to a wider audience.

A crucial part of that audience though, is Google. If Google sees you and recognises the legitimacy of your offering it goes a long way in enhancing the size of the audience, as it puts you high in the search results, allowing more people to find your services.

PR can play a huge role in facilitating that. If you want to learn more, get in touch.