When looking for fresh link building ideas, seek inspiration from PR pros. They have long used several tried and tested methods to enhance the brand image and sales of their clients.
Forget the measly press release – that is one PR tactic that has been used and abused by many companies as a shortcut method to scale their link building efforts. And, as we all know, shortcut methods rarely work long-term in SEO.
Instead, let's explore a few of the most effective public relations strategies that can be slightly tweaked to positively impact SEO on a longer-term basis. As an additional benefit, these tactics will also help to grow your online brand and your sales.
The ideas fall under two main categories, which are essentially clever ways to toot your own horn and a means to leverage the good deeds your company does to earn links and goodwill.
Leveraging Your Company's Authoritative Figure
Every company has at least one person on its leadership team whose accomplishments are worth shouting from the rooftops. Usually it is your CEO or it could even be your COO or CFO. If they are successful thought leaders and have useful information to share, then leverage them as the authority figures for your company.
Here are the best outlets for this.
1. As Guest Contributors
If they are good writers, apply to have your authority figures guest write a periodic column for an online publication. Even if they aren't good writers, you could enlist the help of professional writers to edit and perfect their columns, so they can still share their valuable advice and expertise.
Important: these columns shouldn't contain any sales pitches. They should instead aim to help the reader learn new things, provide significant value, and generate interest.
Then, pitch to local media outlets, industry-specific websites or media; or aim higher and apply to sites such as Huffington Post or Forbes. It is easier to get on media outlet websites than on TV, print or radio. This will have the added advantage of securing you a link from a high quality website, as well as helping you effectively reach a wider audience.
In order to do this most effectively, write two to three articles to showcase the breadth of writing talent and pitch them to the websites, either directly or with the help of a PR agency that has the contacts to get them in front of the right people. You can also add in a short list of proposed future topics, so they have an idea of what to expect in future months.
It's important to provide unique articles to each source; having the same article published by two different sources will sink the relationships faster than you can say battleship. Keep in mind the audience of each website and look at other articles they have published to get a feel for what will work best for that source.
When placing the link don't try to have a link in every article as it will look overtly sales-y and discourage the relationship with the website. Instead, one link from the bio section is enough, since with each new article published you will secure additional links to the bio page, strengthening that link back to your site.
2. As Guest Talent
Is there a business-related TV or radio show on your local or industry-specific media? Reach out to them and have your authority figure go on air to share advice or perhaps take questions from the audience. In giving their time to help others, it will not only build their reputation (and your company's), but will also get you a great link back to your site from the web page of the show.
You can even look at Internet radio stations or popular podcasts, which would provide a higher likelihood of getting a recurring guest spot to build longer-lasting value. As you build up the repertoire of guest spots for your authority figure, you can then reach out to bigger and better media outlets to increase your chances of success for getting accepted for a guest spot there.
Once again, it's important here to not try to slip in any sales pitches at all. In providing value to others, you will gain back enough of a benefit to make it worth the time and effort. Here too, the bio section on the site is sufficient for the link to your site.
3. Conferences/Corporate Events
Are there marketing or industry-specific conferences your company attends? If so, consider asking your authority figures to pitch to speak, if they are comfortable doing so.
Hosting or sponsoring these conferences or other networking events is another good way to gain links and exposure, without the need to actually be a speaker if they shy away from public speaking.
Alternatively, consider entering the top executives or the company itself into awards competitions. Examples of awards to consider competing for include:
- Top executive awards, wherein C-suite management can enter to win a top CEO or Smart CXO award
- Growth awards such as Inc. 5000 or local area fast growth company awards
- Best workplace type awards
- Awards for going green or for innovation
Do Good Deeds and Garner Press Coverage
Look for genuine opportunities to help others in order to secure press coverage for your company. If any acts of kindness or activities of the company are interesting enough to warrant attention from the press, then take advantage of the link value they could provide.
Here are some of the easier ways to secure press coverage.
4. Charitable Contributions
Consider making a donation or organizing a charity drive with a differentiation factor so it provides enough of a human interest angle to generate press attention. If your company is passionate about a particular charity, then being creative in your efforts will help to raise money and awareness for the charity, and could have the karmic benefit of earning you an authoritative link as well.
For example, a New Jersey-based tech company (arguably not the sexiest industry for earning PR coverage) had their employees work out of a giant inflatable snow globe in freezing December in order to raise interest for their coat drive for One Warm Coat. They succeeded in securing a lot of media coverage with the local arms of CBS news, ABC news and NBC radio.
Another example of a well-executed charitable campaign that served to raise a lot of awareness for the charity comes from one of our industry's finest leaders.
Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive is also well-known for his charitable contributions with his entire team. The time he spent sleeping outside in the cold for the charity Covenant House even earned him a mention on Forbes.com, without the SEO value of this participation even being a goal at all.
Competing to win something for free has mass appeal. Sponsors of the competition can even grab press attention.
For example, Pillsbury does a great job with their Bake-Off contest, garnering both press and online attention. The winner for using a contest to gain PR attention has to go to Tourism Queensland, which launched a contest to fill their job opening for island caretaker via their "Best Job in the World Contest." It got vast amounts of press coverage from all the top media outlets around the world and even ended up crashing their website.
On a smaller scale, while all contests may not necessarily earn you links from the press, a well-executed campaign with social media tie-in can still secure several high quality links and promote brand awareness. Other tactics for contests to consider:
- Scholarships: Giving away money to students can help a company list their site on university websites, and if the winning essay has enough of a human interest angle, it can garner press attention.
- Giveaways: Local businesses can run fun contests to give away products or servants to residents in their area. For example, construction firms can run a "boring bathroom" or "ugly windows" competitions to enable residents to win home makeovers, and garner some local press coverage.
- Honor Local Heroes: A surer bet for securing local press is by honoring and recognizing a hometown hero. Hosting an event or giving away cash or services to thank these unsung heroes will improve goodwill for the company and also secure you a press link. Tie in social media to involve more of the community online for even better results.
SEO can have so much more of an impact on the company than simply affecting rankings. A strong outreach campaign can greatly promote the brand, create goodwill and boost sales above and beyond any ranking improvements that can be influenced. Thus, looking at the traditional public relations agencies is always a great go-to resource when strategizing outreach campaigns.
Do you have other ideas or tactics you have used successfully? Share your thoughts in the comments below.