Aoife McIlraith
Aoife McIlraith

The focus of PR activities has moved beyond simply securing top-tier media coverage to facilitating expansive online reach and visibility, which have a longer shelf life and easier discoverability. At the same time, journalists now work on tighter deadlines on multiple beats with less time to conduct research, meaning they’re more reliant on data they can find easily online. As a result, the first page of Google search results has become an important reference point in managing corporate reputations, as a high ranking increases the perceived trustworthiness of any given resource.

Altogether, this means an effective PR strategy needs to incorporate elements of digital marketing, such as link building, the process of establishing relevant hyperlinks from third-party websites. These links from external websites to your own website are called backlinks. Managing backlinks is a powerful tool in building and protecting your online reputation. For example, by closely tracking backlinks to your online content, you can quickly detect negative or inaccurate information being shared about your brand and promptly take action.

Google is already sophisticated enough to disregard link-laden press releases in its SEO algorithms, so it’s crucial to build a backlink profile that incorporates reputable sites, including earned-news media and other third-party sources, as well as owned content.

Here are five helpful tips and tactics to keep in mind as you hone your link-building game to build a strong backlink profile for your brand:

Realize it’s about quality, not quantity. Just one link from an authoritative site can be worth hundreds of no-name sites. What’s more, Google might rank on a page-by-page basis, so while high-traffic sites like YouTube, Medium or Twitter have strong rankings themselves, content from accounts with more views and more subscribers will tend to rank highest.

Pursue unlinked brand mentions. Catalogue your unlinked brand mentions on authoritative sites and consider politely asking them to add a link, but be sure to demonstrate how the link will add value to the site’s readers. For example, a product review or recommendation would greatly benefit from an actionable e-commerce link. However, asking journalists for a link isn’t advisable.

Additionally, the same can be done for visual assets using Google’s Reverse Image Search. Have you created infographics as part of your content strategy? Do you have an industry expert speaker who’s often quoted with a standard photo headshot? Drop the image into Google and see where there might be some easy-win requests for backlinks.

Leverage the SEO power of your company’s industry memberships. Is your company part of any industry associations, such as a local Chamber of Commerce or similar? These organizations often like to showcase their members, so it can’t hurt to reach out and ask to be listed and linked on their site.

Finding some easy wins. Where are your peers and competitors gaining their backlinks? Is there room for you to get linked on that high authority site? Carrying out backlink analysis on your competitors can gain you insights into their targeting as well as who’s interested in their content. You can also discover opportunities by taking a link, looking at the publish date of the content and, if it is outdated, providing new up-to-date content? Have your competitors lost any links for which you could easily reach out and gain the lost link?

Monitor and measure. What good is a media pick-up or an influencer mention if you don’t even know about it? There are numerous backlink checker tools on the market to help you monitor and track backlinks to your website or specific content. As you prepare your PR coverage reports, consider tracking not only media mentions, but inbound links to your content.

Remember, a strong backlink profile can have a real multiplier effect on your online visibility and PR campaign ROI.

Aoife McIlraith is Vice President of Marketing at Semrush.