One of the problems with public relations is that you can't always guarantee editorial coverage. And when you do score some major media coverage, the sweet taste of success can be a little soured for the SEO team through the absence of what could have been a very tasty editorial link. So how can you maximize the chances of getting that powerful link?
Here are some suggestions that will help to swing the odds in your favor.
1. Be newsworthy. Your story must be newsworthy, period. It's an absolute must if you are to stand any chance of getting a link. But "newsworthy" doesn't mean blockbuster stories that spread like wildfire; often it just means telling a good story well.
Media stories can be broken down into different templates that are used over and over again. Inspiration is all around you.
So grab your target publications and have a good read - not a quick scan, but take your time to really digest the stories you find. Ask yourself these questions:
- What was the story about?
- What attracted your attention?
- How do you think that story got there?
- How could you create a similar type of story for your business?
- What could you do better?
The more you understand about the stories that "made it," the more you'll be able to craft your own.
And when you present a newsworthy story, your chances of getting an editorial link increase.
2. Partner with PR professionals. If you're new to the public relations game, you can learn a lot by working with a PR professional. Casie Gillette, director of online marketing, KoMarketing Associates is an SEO who has spent a lot of time working with PR teams. She admires the negotiating skills of PRs and has used them to good effect.
"PR professionals have spent their entire career building relationships and know all about negotiation with the media - something that SEOs don't generally know a lot about. We worked with a client's PR team to set up an exclusive and the results in terms of visits and links were incredible," said Gillette.
3. Ask for a link - politely! You might be tempted to demand a link from a reporter along the lines of "you can only use my story if you give me a link." This is definitely not to be recommended because:
- It's unprofessional and shows you don't understand the dynamic of public relations.
- The reporter will almost certainly say "no" and move on - you'll be too much hassle and they've got other people to interview and other stories to cover.
- You lose the coverage for you or your client - editorial coverage in itself is awesome - and by holding out for a link you've just messed up!
- Perhaps because of the policy of the publication, the journalist has no power to give you a link.
So never demand because you're not really in a position of strength. It's best to give reporters the stories they want and when they're feeling warm toward you, that's the time to ask if it would be possible to link to your site.
4. If you've got breaking news, invite reporters to link to the original source. Mike Essex of Koozai.com broke a story on how he found that e-books were becoming the new content farms. The story was covered on a lot of media including CBS News, which included a nice editorial link.
However, not all the sites that covered the story gave an editorial link. Essex got in touch and rather than asking them to link, he suggested they let their readers check out the original source - by linking of course. "That was a far more effective link building strategy than saying can we have a link please?" said Essex.
5. Create more in-depth resources that extend your story. Publications online and offline have limited space for stories and therefore a good news story can only tell part of the story. One great way to improve the chances of a link is to provide additional value on your site.
The classic case is with market surveys. A good press release can grab the press' attention but they can't publish the whole story. That's where creating rich content based on the results can attract editorial links (see "18 Ways to Create Unique Content From Survey Results").
"One of the biggest mistakes traditional PR can make, especially when they're issuing a report as an exclusive is not to publish the report on their own site," says Ken Deutsch of JPA.com. "That's where the SEO side comes in - together PR and SEO can get terrific editorial links."
Another resource that works well is the in-depth story. Here's an example of where the BBC linked to the story of chocolate on Cadbury's website:
Fig 1. BBC covers love of sweets (candy).
And here's the story on the Cadbury site:
Fig 2. The Cadbury Story 1800-TODAY.
Time-bounded offers and contests can also work well in attracting editorial links.
6. If you're an online business, highlight how your product is used. Can you create a good story where the reader has to go to your site to see the full story? If you're an online business, the answer is almost certainly yes.
For example, this week DearPhotograph.com was featured on the BBC "Click" show.
The site is a nostalgic way to combine historic photographs with the same scene photographed today. The story doesn't really make sense until you see it in action as in this example.
Fig 3. DearPhotograph.com encourages you to match old photographs with the small location today.
Check out http://www.scoop.it/t/dear-photograph and you'll see that not only the BBC, but a host of other major media sites have linked - that's nice link building and PR work!
7. Build relationships with reporters and media. In public relations, establishing good relationships with target publications, editors, and reporters is essential.
Manage those relationships and over time you'll increase your chances of success and opportunities to win links. To do that you must make a great first impression. Keep your answers brief, memorable, and to the point.
You must be absolutely professional - give the reporter exactly what she wants and give it to her right away! Be helpful and responsive, and she's likely to help you when you do ask for that editorial link.
8. Provide information updates on your site. Useful updates are also great at encouraging editorial links. This was not lost on the travel website BeatOfHawaii.com. Parking on Hawaii can cost tourists up to $30 a day, and so when the site published and regularly updated a list of free and low-cost parking spots on the island, Carol Pucci of The Seattle Times found it impossible not to share this useful resource with her readers and provided a nice editorial link.
Fig 4. The Seattle Times can't resist linking to BeatOfHawaii.com and those free parking places.
9. Make use of your strengths. If you can help promote the final article on a large scale, then your chances of links can be increased. David Ciccarelli, co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, said when pitching the media they "usually try to add extra value to the person writing the article through insider tips and statistics."
"If we are featured in the article and a link has not yet been given, we ask for a link to our website. One way to get that link is to let the writer know that we have a massive social media following that we'd be happy to share the article with. We currently have 171,000 fans on Facebook and approximately 194,000 fans across all of our social media channels," said Ciccarelli.
10. Use third-party services. Public relations is a skill that can be learned and will greatly increase your ability to get links from important, authoritative media sites. However, there are third-party sites that can help you get started.
HARO (HelpAReporter.com) is a fantastic free resource that puts you directly in touch with reporters looking to talk to businesses that have useful opinions to share.
If you sign up you'll get over 200 queries from reporters every day. Keep an eye out for general queries that any business can answer, like this one:
Fig 5. A general HARO query that can be answered by almost any small business.
Another service, PressReleaseSender.com (this time a paid-for service) comes from Dan Janal, a PR veteran of more than 30 years. Janal will both write and distribute your press release for you. And it can work really well. Here's an example from NBCLatino.com:
Fig 6. PressReleaseSender.com was used to win this editorial link.
Editorial links, just like editorial coverage can't be guaranteed. However, follow these suggestions and you'll maximize your chances of success. As they say in "The Hunger Games," "May the odds be ever in your favor!"